Thriving mall brings economic boost to city - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Thriving mall brings economic boost to city

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WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. -- City leaders looked at positive economic impacts such as more jobs and a boost to business during a status of the city meeting in West Frankfort Tuesday night. 

Most of that change revolves around the West Frankfort Mall. 

During the meeting, Mayor Tom Jordan mentioned the mall's parking lto is packed during the day, store fronts are filled and businesses are busy. 

The city bought the mall six years ago and during Tuesday night's meeting, tenants and West Frankfort officials agreed it's the best idea the city has ever made. 

Steve Sawalich moved his business into the mall nearly 20 years ago. 

Sawalich is now the manager of the Advanced Hearing Center after he sold the business to his son. 

The storefront used to be located across from the high school until the school needed the space for more offices. 

"The building sold and I was told I had 30 days to move out, so I came here," Sawalich said. "I've never seen it (the mall) busier in my life. It's the best thing the city has ever done."

Since moving out to the mall, Sawalich says it's only brought him better business. 

"Downtown at the time was kind of dying and it wasn't kept up very well," Sawalich said. "Moving out here was better."

Sawalich isn't the only business owner who decided to move to the mall. 

Wisconsin Physician Services (WPS) out of Madison, Wisconsin, moved inside the mall back in September. 

The business signed a contract for five years and promised to at least employee 200 people in the West Frankfort location. 

Mayor Tom Jordan told residents Tuesday night, all these jobs create good problems. 

"We need to redo the parking log, fix the lights and a couple of the heating and air conditioning units need to be replaced," Jordan said. 

The money for those upgrades and fixing the intersection in front of the mall would come from a grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) comes in. 

By the end of March the city will know if they will be granted almost $4 million to update the mall and the intersection leading into the mall. 

Compared to other malls in the region which are losing life, the West Frankfort Mall has new life breathing into it. 

"Some people say all we did was move businesses from downtown to the mall," Jordan. "These were businesses that were going ot be gone, they were leaving because they were bought out. So having this mall was a great opportunity for us to have options."

Jordan says if the city receives the $4 million this month, residents and tenants will start to see changes to the mall and the intersection later this year. 

"This would be great if it was retail, but it's not," Jordan said. "I am always willing to trade retail for jobs."

Another business that hopes to benefit from the additional traffic in the area is Quest Fitness. 

The 24-hour gym will be built behind the mall on Strawberry Drive. 

The brand new 10,000 square foot facility is expected to cost $600,000. 

The business would bring 14 new jobs to West Frankfort. 

No word yet on when construction would start. 

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