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DECATUR - The manager for one of Decatur's older shopping centers is trying to bring new activity to the west side.

Main Place Properties has been working to make improvements to Fairview Park Plaza, but the business make-up remains the most crucial part. At 188,000 square feet, Fairview Park Plaza is the largest shopping center in Decatur that the company manages.

Property manager Dina Durbin thinks she has found an attractive mix with the recent addition of national retailer Citi Trends at 1645 W. King St.

"It's an older established neighborhood shopping center," Durbin said. "It's one-stop shopping without having to leave the site. If I can go some place to get all my shopping done with one stop, I'm happy."

Hundreds of people work for the businesses located in the center. StarTek - a company consistently looking to hire and make the most of its space - brings 500 to 600 workers to the center and the Kroger store attracts both workers and shoppers.

Durbin hopes the customer base will spill over to the neighboring businesses. Decatur Memorial Hospital has added an Express Care office in recent years and Richland Community College has a satellite facility, both of which draw potential shoppers into the center.

Citi Trends is filling an 18,000-square foot space that previously had been occupied by Walgreens and later U Top. The store that opened at the beginning of April offers clothing items and accessories at what is considered a low price.

"We have all name brands at a discount price," store manager Shaylynn Mosley said. "You don't have to go somewhere else to get it, either in Decatur or elsewhere."

Among the things that sets it apart from other stores is it offers layaway payments for up to 60 days, Mosley said. With 20 percent down and a minimum $20 purchase, Mosley said customers can take advantage of the offer.

It provides customers who have difficult financial situations the ability to spread out payments, she said.

Citi Trends is the type of retailer that hasn't always been easy to attract to Decatur, Durbin said. The company was in the middle of an expansion when Durbin approached them.

It has stores in Peoria and Springfield, but Mosley said the Decatur location is among the bigger ones around, allowing it to offer a wider selection of items.

Durbin said the improvements management is making throughout the entire shopping center are intended to help its tenants, including Citi Trends, succeed. To date, Main Place Properties has spent nearly $1.5 million in the last three years to renovate and improve Fairview Park Plaza, with work done mostly on the parking lot, sidewalks and façade, Durbin said.

"It's things you don't notice, but you do," Durbin said. "It's mainly cosmetic improvements."

It's work that might not be done if the center didn't remain a viable shopping option. Durbin said it's now close to 95 percent occupied.

The economy has made it somewhat difficult to attract the types of businesses Durbin has been pursuing. In some cases, she's been after companies four years to get them to come to Decatur.

She hopes it's getting to the point where it would take as much time to make deals happen not just at Fairview Park Plaza but other properties the company manages. In better economic times, Durbin said it usually takes less than a year to make a deal with a new business.

"It's finally turning around," Durbin said. "Decatur gets forgotten. Once a business moves to Decatur, they tend to love the small-town feel."

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