MARION — It’s been nearly two years since Rodney Cabaness, Shad Zimbro and Jerry Barrass (Marion Center Project, LLC) purchased the former Illinois Centre Mall, which officially closed to the public in December 2019. The Fade barber shop was the last tenant to close its doors.
Today, about 90 percent of the inside of the 300,000-plus square-foot facility – not including the anchor stores of Target, Dillard’s and Anderson’s Furniture – is gutted. The drop ceilings that covered 78 former retail shops are gone, as is the flooring. Only the concrete-base floors remains in addition to the walls and main ceiling. Some of the doors, glass walls and customer service counters have been repurposed at the current Oasis Power Sports shop (former Toys R Us).
Plans are to complete the demolition of the inside of the mall property within the next couple of months and then begin painting ceilings and walls and remodeling the inside. Ultimately, the goal is to open a new outdoors and entertainment shopping center within the next couple of years.
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The “Oasis” will be the centerpiece for the company’s destination retail development.
“There will be RVs inside, but this will mostly be for ATVs and all the power sports (side-by-sides off-road motorcycles, on-road motorcycles, watercraft),” said Zimbro. “Kawasaki, Yamaha, Polaris, Can-Am… we’re going to be a huge power sports dealer. We went out to see the two largest dealers in the U.S., which are in California. We saw how those businesses were built and how they were run. And what we’re planning on doing is building ours bigger. We want to be the largest dealer in the country.”
Additionally, the remodeled facility will include restaurants and a Go-Kart racing track, and likely an indoor putt-putt golf area, as well as golf simulators.
“It’s too early to say what kind of restaurants they would be – corporate, franchise or something of our own creation, but definitely entertainment-based,” said Jeremy Pinkston, marketing director for Black Diamond Harley-Davidson.
Zimbro said that’s what the ownership group wants.
“We want this to be entertaining. If we have all these ballfields (Rent One Park and adjacent property) and bring all these kids in to the region to play…we want a place the kids can go to when not playing and enjoy – a place the adults can enjoy too. Something family-friendly and entertaining.”
Paul Girten, property manager for the building, said it is his job to monitor ongoing demolition, construction, maintenance, and security. Additionally, he works with existing tenants to ensure that their needs are being met.
“We keep our tenants in the loop of what all is going on and will support them in any way possible,” Girten said.
Zimbro said construction began about a year and a half ago at the former mall, and there will be no rush to complete the project.
“It’s such a large area here. We’re trying to get it set up just right. We want to do it once and get it right,” he said.
Zimbro said that his ownership group began strategizing ways to use the property once the mall began to shut down.
“It’s such a nice building and there’s so much property right here. We were just trying to figure out what would be the best fit for us and for Southern Illinois. We needed something to bring people in.”
Pinkston said one option was building a new facility to house the RVs and other power sport vehicles, but it made more sense to get a building that was already standing – a building with 22 acres of paved parking lot.
“We just needed to redevelop and re-envision the property,” he said.
Zimbro calls that vision a destination spot for Southern Illinoisans.
“We want to be that one-stop shop where people can come in and look for everything that they need for the outdoors, as well as a place to have fun at while you’re looking. There will be all kinds of things for the kids to do like virtual reality games,” he said. “Kokopelli Golf Course, Rent One Park, the Oasis… everything goes together for the one big picture that we see that’s going to happen. We think it (repurposing of the mall into a power sports showcase) will bring people in from several states around.”
Zimbro added that the mall is barely 30 years old. The exterior remains solid and picturesque.
“It’s a great place. The location is unbelievable. And the city has been great to work with. City officials want this to grow as much as we do. They’re trying to help out where they can – grants, etc.”
Pinkston interjected…”They see our vision to increase tourism, so they are definitely supportive.”