Bryan Vogt: Welcome back to “Ready, Set, Sold” with your host, Bryan Vogt, and I am so pleased and honored to have again the mayor of Belleville, the honorable Mark Eckert. We’ve been talking in the earlier segment. My goodness, it’s a laundry list. There’s so many things I was trying to write down. One of the things I love about these opportunities is what you learn. Some of the things that we talked during the break about were amazing that I had no idea. Again, I have lived in the area my entire life. That’s a cool thing.
One of the things I wanted to talk about with you, though, Mayor, is simply that the housing opportunities, whether you’re selling your home, whether you’re moving to the east side, to the west side, the west side to the south side, from more of a traditional house to a historic house or historic house to whatever, the diversity that’s available probably is second to none throughout the whole entire metro east. Wouldn’t you agree?
Mark Eckert: I would agree, Bryan. I’m very partial, but I think you just got to drive around a little bit. You will see that Belleville has a variety of housing stock different than most cities. But first of all, we’re bigger than most cities. We are the largest city south of Springfield and we are the county seat, and we are 203 years old. But with that, we have those historic homes, we have three historic districts, we have one national historical registry district, but we have some great, great, solid housing neighborhoods that some people would say, “Oh, they’re older.”
Well, I was told many years ago, “We don’t have older housing, we have established housing.” I think it’s all how you look at it. But there’s some great places for young families to put a little equity in, put a little sweat equity in, and there’s some great neighborhoods. We have great schools, which make neighborhoods.
We are working hard as a city to work on infrastructure in school neighborhoods and church neighborhoods. All these things people sometimes overlook. New houses may be probably easier to sell. One of the things I think Belleville has made a mistake about in recent years, we haven’t told the story. We need to better educate realtors and our public about all the great hidden things that are out there.
We have some new housing. We have a couple new housing developers talking to us right now about some new possibilities. The area around Belleville West High School on the Frank Scott Parkway just barely got started and the recession hit hard and the housing market recession actually, as you know, hit probably the year before the bottom fell out of everything. It slowed down greatly, but we’re back talking to a lot of people about some new housing starts. We got one gentleman in a group that’s talking about some new estate homes and that seems to be getting closer.
But there’s new development. It’s tough to get going at times and there’s a lot of hurdles, but we have so many older neighborhoods that have really improved. What I notice is when we take a new road and do a road improvement, it becomes contagious. People start to fix things up. We cut 17th Street through when I was a kid it was a dead end and a 500 block of south 17th.
Not even a kid, they did it 10 years ago. But we now took it through to Route 15 out there at Belleville Crossing, and I noticed on 17th Street how many people, once we opened that road up and put in the new sidewalks and the turn lane and the new pavement and extended it out to the highway, how many people started fixing things up.
Then we put the park and there’s just so many examples of revitalization going on in Belleville that sometimes we don’t get out and tell the story enough about all the good things that are going on.
Bryan Vogt: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more. One note that I always am surprised by, and yes, I’ve lived here and I’ve sold real estate now for going on two decades, is there are pockets, I think, off of 28th Street. There’s certain streets or certain things that are-
Mark Eckert: Woodland Court.
Bryan Vogt: Yeah, they are just absolutely amazing. It doesn’t mean that the other area around it isn’t nice, but they just stand out. Those are just hidden treasures.
Mark Eckert: You are 100% right. Cambridge Court, Woodland Court. You get on the east end off of Garden Boulevard and Edison Place. There’s some places that, you’re right, they are absolutely well-kept secrets, I think. The thing about it is that’s so neat with Belleville, almost anywhere you go, you’re convenient to a shopping center, a grocery store, a school, a church, and no matter what neighborhood in our 10-mile-long city you choose, there’s something for everybody.
There’s new housing. We built the new housing out there behind the new Walmart and Lowe’s and a lot of people said, “Oh, they all look a lot alike.” But a lot of the military people love the amenities. They love being next to that new Wingate school. They love being close to Scott Air Force Base.
Some of those places filled up quicker than I ever would have believed they have. The Orchards has had several additions and continues to grow in an unbelievable way. Maple Hill subdivision, Sunset Ridge, Woodridge over by Roosevelt school in a neighborhood. I don’t live in Woodridge, but I live over in the older part near Roosevelt. That area is just such solid, beautiful homes and beautiful families. There’s a lot of well-kept secrets in Belleville. As the mayor and as our elected officials, we got to get out and work with everybody to educate them and to continue to tell the story. We have a great, exciting town right now. It’s growing again and it’s very vibrant. It’s the place to be and visit.
Bryan Vogt: I agree. Mayor, we ran out of time, I’m sorry to say, but I truly love the enthusiasm. I think that I know there’s been a lot of volunteers, I know there’ve been a lot of people involved with this effort, but it takes one to start it. You have been that leader. You really have. You’ve seen the vision, you’ve been able to move the vision. Kudos to you. You’ve done a great job and I know you’re going to continue to do even a better job as we move forward.
Mark Eckert: I enjoy it, Bryan, and I thank you for that. I look forward to you or any of your associates answering any questions at any time you ever have about Belleville. Next to my family it’s the favorite topic to talk about.