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A Canada goose walks on the empty parking lot of the old Bergner's department store Friday, April 5, 2019, at Market Place Mall in Champaign. The building is scheduled to be demolished, and the site could become the home of only the second Costco store in downtstate Illinois.

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CHAMPAIGN — Champaign City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a tax-incentive agreement that will bring a Costco store to Champaign-Urbana.

Construction of the store and its accompanying gas station is expected to begin at the former Bergner’s department store site at Market Place Mall by early 2020, with a possible opening before that Christmas.

Assistant Planning and Development Director Rob Kowalski said that mall owner Brookfield Asset Management has not yet applied for a demolition permit to tear down the former Bergner’s, but is expected to do so by the end of the year.

The city’s part of the deal will include $2.75 million in sales-tax reimbursements over a 10-year period, though Champaign officials believe Costco will reach the figure sooner than that.

Costco is pledging to hold an open house for minority, women and veteran-owned contractors, too, which council member Will Kyles praised as essential to his support for the project.

“One of the major reasons I’m supporting this bill is the CDAP program,” Kyles said. “This is something we talked about in years past and something the community, council and staff have talked about a lot. Without the CDAP program, I would not, in good conscience, be able to vote for this bill. But obviously that has changed and I hope that staff will be working diligently to see that it is successful.”

The agreement, said council member Tom Bruno, is a perfect example of the city prioritizing in-fill development.

“The estimated additional cost of developing this location is $2.9 million,” Bruno said. “We don’t want this retailer to have to leapfrog over existing acreage in the city, and build further out in the outskirts of town. We’re incentivizing in-fill development.”

Another plus cited by officials is that the development will help keep Market Place Mall going at a time when many retail spaces across the country are suffering. Bruno said the country has “more retail space per capita” than it can possibly fill, so the development is a good opportunity to keep existing infrastructure and bring in a new retailer to the city.

“What would happen to the mall if this didn’t come along and if we didn’t provide incentives to demolish a wing that was being under-utilized?” Bruno said. “That’s some of the thoughts we’ve talked about here on council. One of the reasons I’m supporting this development agreement is because we will benefit by increased visits to our community, increased local sales tax revenue and for all in the community who, judging by comments I’ve heard, are really excited about this.”

In other business, former Human Relations Commissioner Kenton Elmore will not return to his seat on the commission for another term, following a unanimous vote by the council.

Council members voted to reappoint more than a dozen people to several commissions, boards and committees, but they decided to replace Elmore with University of Illinois Senior Computational resource coordinator Ahmed Taha.

Elmore told the council Tuesday that he just learned Monday he would not be reappointed and, after speaking with Mayor Deb Feinen, learned that he “lost my seat so the city can make way for someone newer.”

“I have not known council to, under normal circumstances, deny the term of someone who has been as involved as I,” Elmore said. “I regret that my service fell short. I served on the commission three years, served as vice chair and was even nominated to be chair for the upcoming year. I valued the HRC in the way you value serving on the council. To learn that I will no longer be serving is heartbreaking.”

Reporter

Aldo Toledo is a reporter covering local government at The News-Gazette. His email is atoledo@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@aldot29).