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Marion Mall under new ownership; to be transformed into ‘oasis for fun’
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Marion Mall under new ownership; to be transformed into ‘oasis for fun’

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MARION — The Illinois Star Centre Mall, which shuttered in 2018 after the former owner’s bankruptcy and a tax feud with the city of Marion, has been purchased by Marion Center Project LLC, which plans to develop the mall into a multi-use area for shopping, eating and entertainment.

Rodney Cabaness, owner and president of the group, has been working for months on buying the property through bankruptcy court, and purchased the parking lot attached to the mall in late 2019. The roughly 400,000-square-foot space boasts over 70 storefronts, but only five businesses currently operate in the mall.

The Illinois Star Centre Mall had been on a downhill trajectory under the ownership of Illinois Star Centre LLC for years until the company ultimately filed for bankruptcy in 2017. The mall hemorrhaged tenants and even closed off portions of the building itself in the years leading up to its 2018 closure. A bankruptcy court sided with Illinois Star Centre LLC in 2018, allowing it to vacate the leases of tenants in the mall and close just before Christmas that year. Anthony Rinella, former Marion mayor, at the time called the move to close the mall ”a heartless act.”

Food Stall mall

An abandoned food stall is pictured inside the shuttered Illinois Star Centre Mall in December of 2018.

The former ownership found itself at odds with the city of Marion over how much they owed in taxes, resulting in a legal feud. This prompted the Marion City Council to vote to look into filing a lien against the mall. Additionally, three of the mall’s former owners who were partners in Illinois Star Centre LLC served time in federal prison for participating in a “pay-to-play” tax sale scheme in Madison County. Illinois Star Centre LLC purchased the mall, excluding the anchor stores and parking lot, in a 2011 tax sale in Williamson County.

Jeremy Pinkston, director of business development for the Black Diamond group, which oversees Marion Center Project LLC, said the project is “very near and dear” to the group members’ hearts, and they want to help develop the shuttered mall into a destination “all of Southern Illinois could be proud of.”

Work will start immediately to clean up outward-facing components of the mall, Pinkston said, including cleaning up the exterior of the building and servicing the parking lot, which hasn’t been repaired for the better part of a decade. He said the work done to the exterior of the mall will help attract more people to the anchor stores still there: Target, Anderson Warehouse Furniture and Dillards.

Marion mall in 2017

The Illinois Star Centre Mall in Marion is shown behind some weeds sprouting in the parking lot on May 26, 2017.

Pinkston said the group’s goal is to develop the mall into an expanded retail space, or an “oasis for fun” — a multi-use area for shopping, eating and entertainment. “If we can create a space which will make Southern Illinois happy, and ultimately bring tourists to Southern Illinois — whether it be for retail shopping or for entertainment, it is an absolute win.”

Future developments are in the works for the mall space, but “nothing is concrete yet,” Pinkston said, while adding the first big project Illinois Star Centre will see is “a nostalgic idea that will be brought into the 21st century.” That project is slated to be completed by the end of September and will create a “space where people can enjoy entertainment while abiding by the current social distancing guidelines set by the state.”

Cabaness, Marion Center Project LLC owner and president, also owns the Black Diamond Harley-Davidson group in Marion. The group owns and manages a variety of businesses in the region, including Harley-Davidson motorcycle and RV dealerships, Krispy Kreme franchises and an aviation company.

Pinkston said the group wants to get input from the community about the development. “This is a huge area for Southern Illinois that we’re going to develop and the more eyes and ideas on it, the better.” To provide thoughts on the development project, email the Marion Center Project LLC group at marketing@blackdiamondhd.com.


Photos: The Marion Mall through the years, from grand opening gala to ghost town

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On Twitter: @brianmmunoz

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Brian Munoz is a correspondent for The Southern.

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