The City of O’Fallon is seeking public input into a $1.5 million downtown plaza to be developed in the upcoming year.
On Wednesday night, dozens of residents and business owners gathered to hear the proposal by SWT Design firm for an all-season plaza for an underutilized lot at Vine and First Street.
The plan is part of an initiative called Destination O’Fallon, an effort to bring visitors to the downtown area and turn the Metro East town into a tourist destination.
“There used to be a lot of festivals and downtown events, we don’t have those anymore,” said April Barnes, the owner of Three Sisters Crafts, a long standing small business on State Street.
Barnes is thrilled at the idea of revitalizing the downtown core but she has some concerns about the project. She is concerned about parking because the plaza will go in a lot used by people downtown but also because of a small white house that sits on the lot.
The house is Santa’s Hut. Parents bring their children every year for the annual tradition of seeing Santa.
“It’s more intimate than the mall,” said Barnes, who is on the Downtown Association board that runs Santa’s Hut. “Parents love it, it’s really a great place.”
City administrator Walter Denton said there is not set decision on getting rid of Santa’s Hut, that’s why they are seeking out public input, but he said there’s a chance to use the new plaza for a large winter festival for Santa.
Denton says the downtown plaza will be paid for with the newly increased hotel/motel tax.
“Visitors will help pay for it,” he said, adding that it will hopefully become a tourist destination.
SWT Design showed off several ideas for the site, which include a pavilion, a market-like setting or even an homage to the old O’Fallon Train Station.
They hope to have the design finalized by spring and begin construction in the summer with the hopes of it opening by fall or early winter.
“I think it could be a good thing especially if it’s developed right,” said Barnes.
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