Developer says “unfriendly politics” killed Colona project

Plans for a multimillion dollar development in Colona, Illinois, have fallen through, and some are blaming the City Council for the loss of new business and jobs.

Last November, Providence Village, LLCĀ  first expressed interest in Colona. The company proposed building a retirement community in the Stonebridge Crossing subdivision off Route 6.

Phase 1 would have included a state-of-the-art, 50-unit facility, creating 25-30 full-time jobs, a $1.2 million annual payroll, and approximately $130,000 in property taxes each year. The total investment was expected to reach $16 to $20 million.

“We’re one of the only communities that don’t have a place for our seniors to go, and our seniors are constantly having to move outside our town, the ones that have been here for 80, 90 years,” said Mike King, alderman at large.

“This project, for Colona, would have been probably one of the biggest projects this city has ever seen.”

Thursday, though, the Mayor and City Council received word that Providence Village would not be moving forward with the plans.

In a letter to city staff, developer Paul Johnson writes:

“We recently updated our cash flow Performa and in our final analysis, our anticipated occupancy growth came out less than we originally planned, mainly due to geography, unfriendly politics, and general negativity. All this results in too much risk as a developer to invest in the community.”

Mayor Rick Lack says he’s frustrated and upset, and said he believes some City Council members have created a negative environment toward any sort of development.

“The developer on this project was confronted and almost harassed to the point on certain issues,” said Lack.

Alderman King agrees.

“We’d have council meetings, and they were just really asking for the moon, when the developer was really asking for nothing,” said King.

Stonebridge Crossing is already a TIF district, but city staff said the developer did not ask for any further incentives.

Friday, 4th Ward alderman Rafe Thrasher refuted King and Lack’s remarks, saying council members were only asking the developer questions that any community member would want answered.

Thrasher said many of his constituents — neighbors of the proposed Providence Village site — were worried about access to the retirement community which would come through their subdivision.

Lack worries the failure of this project, though, may have lasting consequences.

“I think it’s going to be harder to get developers to come to Colona,” said Lack.

Providence Village says it hopes to build three retirement communities in Central Illinois over the next six years. The company is based out of Galesburg, Illinois.