The Columbia City Council gave the green light on Monday to Gregg Crawford’s Main Street Abbey Re-Development Plan, making the project officially a go.
“He has the ability to start construction, pending the appropriate building permits,” Columbia city administrator Jimmy Morani said.
The council officially accepted Crawford’s plan for the deconsecrated Immaculate Conception church and parish buildings on South Main Street when they voted unanimously to accept the re-development plan.
Morani said the process involved “a lot of vetting and back and forth” to ensure the plan met the city’s needs and standards, as well as had the ability to provide services the public will expect from such a development.
“He’s got the necessary approval from the city to start working on everything,” Morani reiterated.
From this point on, Crawford will work with the city’s building and zoning department to ensure the details of the plan are adhered to, and to address any issues that might arise.
The project has been met with overwhelming support from the public, including members of Immaculate Conception Parish and Immaculate Conception Church’s Father Carl Scherrer, who now presides at the new ICC, located at 411 Palmer Road.
The first phase of the project will include converting the former church building, parts of which date back to the 1860s, into a banquet hall. Crawford’s original plans were to have the banquet space operational by this spring.
The next phase will include converting the former convent and rectory.
The former convent is located to the north of the former church. It will house a hair salon and upscale apartments. Our Coffee House and Café, currently located on Rapp Avenue, will move there and be renamed Café on The Abbey.
The former rectory, to the east of the former church, will eventually become upscale apartments.
Arguably the largest and most complex portion of the project is still years down the road. When the adjoining Immaculate Conception School, which is still in use, moves into a new facility, which has yet to be built on Palmer Road, Crawford plans to create a multi-use structure that will include a bed and breakfast, meeting rooms, a microbrewery and a garden restaurant.
Crawford plans for the entire site to be heavy with trees, shrubs, foliage, flowers and grass, with decorative fencing replacing the utilitarian chain-link fence currently in use.
Also on Monday, the council discussed installing a fifth omni-directional siren to alert residents of severe weather. It will be installed on the north end of town, although the exact location has yet to be determined.
“(Fire) Chief (Roediger) and I sat down and, recognizing that the north is our largest growth area, it made sense that we go ahead and put that in there, so we looked at funds,” said Columbia’s EMA director and city clerk Wes Hoeffken. “This is a joint effort between the (Columbia Volunteer Fire District) and the city and because the fire district is putting some money toward this it allowed us to look at our budget a little bit better and we had the funds there.”
“It’s really a matter of planning for the future,” Morani echoed. “It gives an added layer of alerts as well as providing for future growth.”
Hoeffken said the city will also launch a renewed effort to encourage residents to sign up for the Code Red weather alert notification system, which sends weather and other emergency information.
The alerts are sent through automated phone calls, emails and text messages. Sign up for Code Red by visiting Monroe County government’s website at www.monroecountyil.org and clicking on the “Code Red Weather Warning” graphic.
In other Columbia news:
• The city’s next large-item pick up will be Tuesday, Feb. 21.
• A public hearing is scheduled for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at city hall to gain input on proposed improvements to the intersection of Route 3 and Gall Road at South Main Street. Also at the meeting, city staff will be available to discuss and gain public input on potentially installing a stoplight at Route 3 and Carl Street. It has been determined the city is likely eligible for a grant that would cover 90 percent of the cost of installing the stoplight.