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A new shopping center? In this economy? $30M Metro East project kicks off 70% pre-leased

Construction was to start a few months earlier, but GBT Realty paused the project to determine how the COVID-19 crisis would play out
Credit: SLBJ
The Shops at Richland Creek in O'Fallon, Illinois, will open summer 2021

O'FALLON, Ill — A Nashville developer is forging ahead on a $30 million shopping center in O'Fallon, Illinois, after pausing the project due to the pandemic.

Called The Shops at Richland Creek, GBT Realty Corp. is developing 17 acres of vacant land at Interstate 64 and Greenmount Road, a major thoroughfare that divides O'Fallon and Shiloh. The project includes 53,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

The center is about 70% pre-leased with tenants such as Smoothie King, Chicken Salad Chick, Pacific Dental, Five Guys Burgers + Fries, Taco Bell, Burger King, Popeyes and Tidal Wave Luxury Car Wash. Adam Glosier and Chris Zoellner of St. Louis commercial real estate firm Scout Realty Group are the leasing brokers for the the project. Poettker Construction Co. of Breese, Illinois, is the general contractor.

Construction was to start a few months earlier, but GBT Realty paused the project to determine how the COVID-19 crisis would play out.

"We were literally about to ground break as the pandemic started. The only reason to pause was to get a better feel of what permanent effects on retail would be," said Jeff Pape, managing director of GBT Realty’s shopping center division.

In the mean time, Pape and others had conversations with tenants to determine how the pandemic impacted their businesses. Ultimately, the developer waited about 60 days before it felt comfortable with its tenant mix, which leans heavily toward fast food, to move forward.

It's not a decision others have been fortunate to follow. One development in the works for a few years, Crestwood City Center, was scrapped due to Covid-19's impact, while others across the country are faced with tenant bankruptcies and uncertainty.

Nationwide, retail sales fell 8.7% in March month over month, while April sales fell 16.4%, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

"It's no secret retail has been changing over the last several years," Pape said. "We felt comfortable with the short pause we took. We have no doubts moving forward."

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