'Ugliest building' in Paxton set to be become 'prettiest'

PAXTON — The brick building at the northeast corner of State and Taft streets in Paxton is getting a makeover, and its owners want the city’s help.

Inside the old building at 145 W. State St. is a beef-jerky manufacturing operation — one that has been seeing quite an uptick in business in recent months.

But outside, the building has seen better days.

Glen Kirby, co-owner of Paxton Packing LLC, hopes to change that soon. Among other improvements eyed for his beef jerky manufacturing plant, Kirby wants the building’s less-than-attractive exterior to take on the same level of pride as the booming business being done inside.

Calling it “the ugliest building in Paxton,” Kirby told Paxton aldermen during their Dec. 12 meeting that he hopes the building can eventually become, if not the “prettiest building in Paxton,” perhaps “pretty darn close to the prettiest warehouse in Paxton.”

Kirby said modifications to the building’s exterior are already being made, as the old white paint is being blasted away using only hot water. The building is also being re-tuckpointed, with some historical-looking windows replacing the boarded-up windows already there.

Kirby said that when the project is completed, the building’s exterior should “look pretty similar to what it would have looked like” more than 100 years ago. The Champaign-based Farnsworth Group has been providing some conceptual ideas to consider, Mayor Bill Ingold noted.

“We really want to take it back to a historical vision,” Kirby said. “I was really excited to hear about the Main Street (improvement) project (the city is undertaking downtown), because we kind of feel like we’re part of Main Street (even though the building is one block away). So we’d like it to match (the historical look) the rest of the community is doing on Main Street.”

Kirby is now asking the city council to approve a redevelopment agreement with Paxton Packing LLC to help finance the exterior improvements. Under the proposed agreement, which will be up for approval by the council next month, the city would reimburse the company up to $25,000 over the remaining 18 years of the city’s tax-increment financing (TIF) district, doing so using the increase in property taxes generated on that property as a result of the improvements made. Annual payments would be made to the company starting next year, Ingold said.

Kirby and another man bought Paxton Packing LLC from Chicago native Jeffery Eckert in fall 2016. Since that time, sales have increased by 48 percent, three national contracts have been signed, and another 50 percent growth in the business is expected.

“This has been the busiest month in the history of the company,” Kirby said.

Yet, a person driving by the facility would likely never know.

“We really want people to drive by the facility and know that something special is going on inside,” Kirby said.

In addition to the exterior renovation, the building’s interior is seeing some improvements, as well. Recently, the company invested about $40,000 to $50,000 on the interior of the building in order for the facility to be able to obtain “SQF 2” food-safety certification, Kirby said. Most major food retailers, Kirby noted, require food-manufacturing facilities to operate “in an SQF 2 level.”

“Our desire was to make sure that the inner workings of the building were operating correctly and up to code for our manufacturing type,” Kirby said.

Paxton Packing LLC is already talking about expansion, as well. The mayor said he was discussing with the city’s financial consultant the possibility of using some money through the city’s revolving loan program to help the company do more business. A loan could be finalized sometime next year, Ingold said.

The revolving loan fund provides low-interest loans to businesses for the creation or retention of jobs — and that is precisely how Paxton Packing LLC would use one.

“We think that with the addition of three-quarters of a million dollars in automation equipment, we might be able to have about 40 employees,” Kirby told aldermen. “This is a really great time for us.”

The redevelopment agreement that would reimburse Paxton Packing LLC up to $25,000 for the exterior work was listed for possible approval on the agenda for the Dec. 12 meeting. However, because aldermen said they wanted more time to review the proposed agreement — and because the city’s TIF consultant, attorney Dan Schuering of Springfield, was not present — they decided to postpone a vote at that time.

“I certainly think it’s absolutely wonderful what you’re doing,” Alderman Mike Wilson told Kirby, “but I want to make sure we have enough time to study the information and get complete information before we make a decision.”

A meeting of the council’s economic development committee was set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, during which time the committee and Schuering will review the proposed redevelopment agreement with Paxton Packing LLC, along with proposed redevelopment agreements between the city and Shields Automart and NexStep Commercial Products.

Final approval of all three agreements will be listed on the agenda for the council’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting that same night. The regular meeting starts at 7 p.m. and will be held at City Hall, 145 S. Market St.

Both the committee meeting and regular monthly meeting to follow are open to the public.

For more information about Paxton Packing LLC, people can visit paxtonpacking.com.


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