Mayoral candidates discuss future of Marion mall - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Mayoral candidates discuss future of Marion mall

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MARION, Ill. -- The Illinois Star Centre Mall continues to struggle after the popular shopping center now sits nearly empty. 

The mall used to be home to more than 50 stores when it first opened in 1991 but now the massive building on the west side is bare.

Earlier this week, Marion Mayor Anthony Rinella said a potential business to going into the empty Sears building.

"It's a great location for businesses and we just need to do something to make people understand that," Rinella said. 

Rinella says that the city is helping relocate a tenant inside the mall who is ready to leave the store once his lease is up.

"What few shops are in the mall are leaving and others are looking for other places to go or build," Rinella said. "It's not a pretty scenario right now."

Currently the mall is sitting in bankruptcy court.

News 3 asked two other candidates running for Marion mayor what they would do to revamp the space. 

Mike Absher says he remembers when the mall opened and was thriving in the 90s but dislikes that no one goes inside the mall to spend their time or money. 

"The Dillard's ownership, the people going into the old Sears buildings and the Target are all destinations, but the mall itself is not a destination like it used to be," Absher said. 

But what would Absher do to turn the mall around?

"Putting a destination development surrounding the mall and have shopping in the middle, or repurpose part of it for a convention center," Absher said.

Mayoral candidate Angelo Hightower agrees. If he is elected mayor, the mall needs to be addressed.

"It's just sad to see the ghost town that it's become," Hightower said. "The only thing you see are tumble weeds and security officers."

Hightower doesn't think the fix of the empty mall is shopping or entertainment. 

"I think Marion has a shortage for treatment centers like alcohol and drug abuse, things for people with mental illnesses or veterans micro apartments," Hightower said. "There are a litany of things we can do and not for a sense of entertainment purposes."

And even though the candidates might not have the same opinion, they all agree, the mall needs help. 

"Let's get this resolved and let's move on so we can take that area out there and make it positive once again."

All three mayoral candidates said once the court case is over, they will do what they can do to make sure the mall property gets in the hands of the right developer. 

Rinella says the city does not plan on being in the business of owning the mall. 

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