Shields Auto Center to build new facility

RANTOUL — Pending final approval by Ford and Chrysler, Rantoul’s Shields Auto Center will be building a new facility in town.

The project, which has been pending for several months until receiving the dealerships’ OK, is expected to begin this year with a possible completion by spring 2018, according to President and principal owner Duane Shields.

The auto dealer will move west from its present location at 225 S. Meyers St. to a locale along U.S. 136 north of Rantoul Wal-Mart.

“We will build a shop and two showrooms for Ford and Chrysler and a service drive and quick lube on the Ford side where there will be tires, batteries and accessories,” Shields said.

Shields has been in the auto business in Rantoul since he bought out Warren Manley Ford-Chrysler.

Shields also bought out Hari Motors, which sold Pontiac, Oldmobile and Cadillac cars in downtown Paxton, and later also bought Lou Wurmnest’s Chevrolet-Buick dealership in west Paxton near the Interstate 57 overpass. The company continues to sell cars at that location under the Shields Automart name.

Shields said the new facility will not affect the Paxton dealership.

“We haven’t set a time frame,” Shields said of the new facility. “There’s a lot of work to do yet. We have to take bids and soil borings. A lot goes into this before we can start construction.”

The dealership periodically moves its inventory to the new location. The vehicles will be moved there for good when the new facility is completed.

The project will include demolition of the old Moose lodge west of the former Days Inn. Shields said the company owns all that property and around to the south of the new Holiday Inn Express.

“We won’t take all of it. We’ll probably take about 3-4 acres,” Shields said. “We have to get it plotted out to see how much it will take.”

Shields said the new facility is expected to mean additional jobs.

“We hope to employ more,” he said. “We’re hoping to expand after doing all this. We’re going to have a much larger shop. We will expand on people and sales.”

Hopefully business will be improved, Shields said, due to greater visibility “and a nice new facility” that will be more “customer friendly.”

Shields said the current property has served its location.

“The facility’s old. We need to move. Just the way it’s been laid out. It’s worked good for us. We’re happy being in Rantoul. The idea is that time moves on and we need to upgrade.”

Rantoul Economic Development Director Rebecca Motley said the company will receive financial incentives. She said the village board has signed a redevelopment agreement that is awaiting Shields’ signature.

The dealership is eligible to receive tax increment finance money — some of it to demolish the Moose lodge. The village will also rebate 50 percent of the increased sales tax for 10 years.

The property is also located in an enterprise zone that was approved by the state in January. The company will be able to apply for tax rebates from the state of Illinois on construction materials.

“I think it’s very exciting having something new right there at the entrance to town,” Motley said. “We are thrilled to see this move forward.”

Motley said the dealership can serve as a catalyst for more development in west Rantoul.

With any such move from a current facility to a new one, the old one is left behind. But the economic development director said the village is “discussing that old location with them.”

“We do not want to leave vacant property at the center of town,” Motley said. “We haven’t gone into detail, but it’s definitely not going to be sitting there (abandoned).”

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