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TAYLORVILLE — In a speech given by President John F. Kennedy on October 3, 1963 in Heber Springs, Arkansas, Kennedy said the following:
“These projects produce wealth, they bring industry, they bring jobs, and the wealth they bring brings wealth to other sections of the United States. This State had about 200,000 cars in 1929. It has a million cars now. They weren’t built in this State. They were built in Detroit. As this State’s income rises, so does the income of Michigan.. As the income of Michigan rises, so does the income of the United States. A rising tide lifts all the boats and as Arkansas becomes more prosperous so does the United States and as this section declines so does the United States. So I regard this as an investment by the people of the United States in the United States.”
Cindy Frisina is helping to “lift the boats” with her most recent project that will enhance the downtown area of Taylorville. Frisina, a 1981 Taylorville High School graduate, began Heartland Development Partners, Inc. in 2021 with the intention of helping to revitalize her hometown and rural America.
A 3-Tiered Approach:
Cindy is the CEO for Heartland Development Partners, Inc. (HDPI), a company she formed in 2021. It is comprised of a group of investors who care about small towns and/or are from Taylorville. She calls them “Legacy Alumni” and states that “I haven’t had one potential investor come to Taylorville for one day and didn’t like what they saw. Everyone of them saw the potential we have here to help revitalize this area.” Heartland is a Real Estate Holding Company and is the “for profit” side of the business.
In addition, Frisina also started a non-profit foundation that falls under HDPI and is called Revitalize Rural America (RRA). This non-profit foundation is able to gain grant perspective that are community based that you can only do through that kind of a vehicle. “It’s basically a 501(c)3 that can help the community. I thought this would be a great collaboration to be able to have the for-profit piece and then the non-profit part that can do grants and other non-profit community events,” said Frisina.
And finally, she created a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) called Christian County Hospitality, LLC. “When you have a LLC under a Corporation, then you can do other things. For example, all the food and beverage operations for any of the buildings, or future buildings I may buy, can be run under the LLC. It’s much more efficient that way,” said Frisina.
The right person
for the job
Frisina has quite an impressive resume that lends credibility to tackle such a large project. She holds a degree from the University of Illinois, a Masters Degree from Northwestern University, 35 plus years of business experience globally through several major industries for global brands, as well as start ups. She is a resourceful advocate on a U.S. and international level. She is recognized for strategic business planning, digital and social media, advocacy, public relations, grant writing, and building strategic partnerships. She is the Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Cerebral Palsy Foundation, was the Executive Director and Co-Founder at Pediatric Healthcare, Reaching for the Stars – a foundation of hope for children with Cerebral Palsy, Executive director for Blaze Sports America, Director of Advertising for BellSouth Telecommunications, Director of Marketing for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, and Account Executive for Leo Burnett Advertising Agency, handling accounts for United Airlines, Pillsbury and McDonald’s. Her resume is definitely impressive. But, more importantly than all those accomplishments is the fact that she is a genuinely kind and caring human being who wants to make a difference. She is a true definition of a leader.
So what IS she doing?
Heartland Development Partners, Inc. has purchased several buildings on and off the square in Taylorville, with hopes to revitalize them. “I saw the square in Taylorville, probably at it’s peak, when I was growing up. It was the life of the town. If you had to shop anywhere, most likely, you were shopping on the square. After college, and as I got into non-profit work and advocating for people with disabilities and grant work, the tug for revitalizing rural spaces and community was always there for me. I kept coming back to Taylorville and I saw the decline of the square for a lot of reasons. I saw demographic trends that told me it was going to shift. Now, I could not have predicted we would have a pandemic, but I saw the trend coming for revitalization. Throughout history, you can see the pendulum shift and change comes. I kept coming back to Taylorville. I took over our family farms when my dad’s health declined, which offered me an opportunity to come back to town more often. I saw the opportunity with the historic buildings we have here and thought ‘My goodness, this is just so beautiful and we could really make some things happen here.’ You could see these other rural places already doing this same thing in Missouri, Ohio and Georgia. But most of these places didn’t already have the infrastructure in place, like we did, to help revitalize the downtown areas.. You can’t build these old historic buildings anymore,” said Frisina.
“It’s (Taylorville) a huge part of who I am. All the parts I got to experience growing up are what made me successful. I am so thrilled that I had that experience to play all the sports I wanted, work on the yearbook if I wanted, participate in the school play, or the dance team. All those experiences gave me the confidence that helped me after graduating from THS. Not to mention, my family goes back four generations in Taylorville. My great-grandfather, Dominic Frisina, bought several buildings on the square. He built the Frisina Hotel, the Capitol Theatre, and several other old theaters, as well as the drive-in theater. All told, it is said that Frisina Enterprises had over 60 theaters and drive-ins in three states. He was a real entrepreneur of his time. I think I probably take after him the most. I moved away after to high school and attended college, but I always came back because my parents were still here. As the years went on and I was fortunate to have business success, especially when I worked for Hyatt Hotels Corporation, a global company with hotels and resorts all over the country. I saw how that works, revitalizing and creating something new and really, bringing jobs to the community, creating entertainment and experiences for people. It all made an impact on me. But, I have always loved Taylorville,” said Frisina..
What buildings have purchased so far?
One of the crown jewels and cornerstone of the whole investment is the purchase of the former Rene’s Building, located at 201 W. Main Cross. “That building is Jack Mazzotti’s family legacy. It is so well known and stands the test of time. It has been in their family since 1935 with the original building being built. It was in his family for 82 years. The pharmacy business was sold in 2017 to Walgreen’s, and the building was sold to Frisina this year. “When I spoke to Jack about the possibility of purchasing the building, he saw the value of this whole project and wanted to be a part of it. I could not be more grateful for his involvement and having the confidence in me to pull it off. Rene’s will become “Jack’s On Main.” It will be the first roof-top bar patio in Christian County. The main floor will be a renovated diner for breakfast on the square just like it used to be, but all fresh and new. They will have breakfast and lunch food there. Then, you will be able to sit on the rooftop at night, weather permitting of course, to watch a game on the big screen tv, have a drink or two, listen to some live music, look at the square, and visit with family and friends,” said Frisina.
Jack Mazzotti said “Our families (Frisina’s and Mazzotti’s) go back as far as her great-grandfather and my father. Dominic Frisina was a staple in the community for doing all the right and positive things that affected lifestyle/hotel and movie houses. I was very close to her father, Robert “Bob” Frisina and her mother Fran. When she came to me with this project and what she wanted to do, I was excited about it. I like to think I’m pro-Taylorville and I enjoy getting into projects that I think are going to be on the plus side. This project is being done for all the right reasons. It’s gone beyond just the storefront. It points towards a piece of a puzzle that hopefully will enrich Taylorville and surrounding communities. I think it will be great to bring some life back to that corner of the square. It has remained dark for the past three years. It’s time for growth,” said Mazzotti.
Mazzotti also commented that “It was interesting and came out of the blue to find out she wanted to rename the building “Jack’s on Main”; a nod to Mazzotti. “I could tell she was very sincere in her belief when she pitched the idea. I have to admit, I didn’t think I would like it at first. The more we engaged, however, I felt comfortable with it,” said Mazzotti. “We are real fortunate to have one of Taylorville’s own (Frisina) to step up to the plate for a project of this size. There are also a lot of local people who have joined, too. I think it’s going to be just terrific and I’m thrilled to be a small part of it.”
222 W. Main Cross St.
Frisina also purchased the building at 222 W. Main Cross, on the South East side of the street; former home to “Cars of Our Dreams Museum” owned by the late Larry Sutton and family. “First of all, I have to thank the Sutton family for allowing me to be the one to purchase their building. As a kid, I lived on the same block (Clay Street) and knew them well. They were always kind to me and my family and I always appreciated that. For them to have faith and trust in me with their building is deeply appreciated,” said Frisina.
The building will be named Lincoln Hall and it is in collaboration with the non-profit Revitalize Rural America (RRA). It will be a 1200 seat performing arts center. As the building currently sits, there will obviously need to have a lot of expansion to accommodate 1200 seats, but there is also an empty lot to the south of that building that will be part of the project. Some people from a certain era might remember the old Nashville North, while today’s community members may have heard of the current Effingham Performing Arts Center. Lincoln Hall will be the best of both of those worlds.
Frisina said “A lot of that will be able to be funded with grant money. The structural system will be composed of light-gauge metal building components. All steel framing elements will be manufactured off-site by existing steel building manufacturers using computer-controlled processes. The elements will be made from 80% recycled steel, and then shipped to the site for easy construction. The fascia panels for the exterior will be the perfect blend of recycled materials that complement the downtown heritage of Taylorville. The design includes a rooftop garden supporting further sustainability. All of these components will help keep the costs down.
Frisina has tapped Kathy (DelValle) Fergin, another THS graduate, as the lead person for Lincoln Hall. “With Kathy’s passion for the arts, it was a no-brainer to select her for this role. I’m so excited to have her on board and know she is just the right person for this,” said Frisina.
“I’m really looking forward to this. When she approached me with the concept, I thought ‘Wow, this is just what Taylorville needs.’ I can envision so many things with this venue from starting a Community Theatre group, to great musical acts, to musicians performing at a jazz concert, to some global performing groups; the list is endless. I’ve also thought it would be such a great opportunity for volunteers to help. We have such a rich group of volunteers at the hospital who are instrumental in a lot of ways. They still have a lot left to contribute and this would be a great way for them to continue doing so. We could also partner with the CEO Program at the high school and get the kids involved in this type of entrepreneurship, if they are interested. The possibilities are endless, really. I think this is going to be such a great thing for our community in the form of jobs, cultural diversity through live entertainment and live music. It will help bring wisdom and creativity to people’s minds. I don’t think we get enough of that. It’s a win/win situation in my book,” said Fergin.
Union Block/Slatten Building
123 S. Washington
Another recent purchase for Frisina has been the Union Block/Slatten Building located on the West Side of the square on the corner of Market and S. Washington Streets.
This beautiful building was completed in 1847 and was once home to Slatten Bros. Department Store. You will note the name at the top left corner of the building (Slatten Bros.). In fact, Al Bryant, Alfred Slatten’s grandson, has expressed interest in Frisina’s project after he recently learned of it. He spoke to Frisina by phone last week and indicated he would love to come and visit soon, as he has fond memories as a child in the building his grandfather owned.
In addition to Slatten Bros. owning the building, it was also once home to the Law Offices of Thomas E. Doyle and Vance Fraley. Doyle agreed to sell the beautiful corner building to Frisina after she pitched her plan for revitalization. She is very appreciative of his support to this project and the trust given to her by him.
She has met, in recent weeks, with an architectural firm, to determine what she can and can’t do with the building. “The Union Block/Slatten Building will be repainted with all historic colors. I’ve talked with Matt and Heidi Corso, owners of Anderson Jewelers, and our neighbors. We will collaborate with them on the painting. We will get all new windows and restore it back to a really beautiful building. Inside, it has gorgeous tin ceilings and will be a restaurant serving things such as soups and salads, small plates, etc.; not like a diner. It will be different than anything else that is currently up town. It is important not to compete with what we already have downtown. The second floor will depend on what my architects tell me I can do, but I’m thinking of either apartments, or a wine bar kind of thing. I may do multiple things with it…but just haven’t settled on anything for sure for that top floor. I definitely want to have this one restored. It’s such a beautiful building with a great vantage point for overlooking the square and the beautiful courthouse,” said Frisina.
Old Rendezvous Tavern
Corner of Walnut and Main Cross
Her last purchase is the old Rendezvous Tavern on the corner of Walnut and Main Cross Streets. You might ask why on earth would she be interested in that building, as it’s been uninhabited for quite some time. Frisina said “This one was an opportunistic real estate purchase. I will do something cool with that building eventually. The price was right and the location was right and I like corner buildings. It was a strategic purchase.”
“We are in our first round of funding and that phase is almost complete. I’m ahead of schedule in that aspect, so it’s very exciting. We have 11 investors so far and I’m really pleased about that. We have a good mixture of male and female investors. From the non-profit perspective, there are not that many women who are involved in these types of initiatives; revitalization of downtowns; so I have some good opportunity to leverage on that and can hopefully secure some good grants because I can fit certain criteria they are looking for. As far as Lincoln Hall goes, we are in the first phase of fund-raising, selection of architects/engineers, structural site, parking and city impact studies and budget review/funding plan approvals. We are tentatively planning for completion of that project by December 2024 with full operation in 2025. For Jack’s on Main (former Rene’s), we plan to launch it in the Fall of 2023. It’s a pretty solidly built building, thanks to the late Gene Kennedy, so there is not much construction that needs to be done; more renovation and sprucing up to make it fresh and new again,” said Frisina.
It is important to note that Frisina said this is not a sequential project, which means they won’t start and finish one building before they start another. “No…this all has to go at the same time, which is a lot of work, as you can imagine. I will be utilizing as many local contractors and businesses as I can for the multiple facets of this project. The approximate cost for renovations will be between $2-$2.5 million dollars. I’m able to keep it at that range because I have such experienced investors and they are able to source things for it,” said Frisina.
where credit is due
Frisina made special mention of the DowntownTaylorville.org/Smalltown Taylorville group, as well as Lee and Dyanne Skinner for their already present changes to the downtown area. “What made this an attractive part of the investment to Taylorville is the DowntownTaylorville.org group and the Business Development District Fund. We are going to leverage that with our investors because a lot of small towns don’t have these things available. That is really significant. I have built that into my presentation with the investors and they have all been really impressed by these two things. If you have the funds to help offset some things, such as new windows in some of the buildings, or a new facade on the building, and I am able to then recoup some of that cash, that is hugely beneficial when you’re talking about 4 or 5 buildings to renovate,” said Frisina.
“The work that the DowntownTaylorville.org Group and Lee and Dyanne Skinner are doing, gave me the confidence to do it. They were the trailblazers. I’m just using their momentum to do what I’m doing. I think that is really important. I am so appreciative in recognizing all the work that is going on downtown currently that has led me to where I am today. In addition, I think it’s pretty special that there are a lot of others who have opened up shop in the past few years and have managed to stay open, despite a pandemic. And the fact that a lot of them are female owners is pretty impressive, too. All of that is really important to me. They have all paved a way for me to do what I’m doing today. I hope to be able to inspire others to do the same,” said Frisina.
“This is an investment….it’s not a vanity project. It has to have a return on investment. This is a legacy driven project, which makes it very different from other projects. People yearn for small town values, safety, ability to remotely work from home, good school systems, performing arts center and other elements that provide good quality of life in a small town. If you have met those needs, you will attract new residents,” said Frisina.
And perhaps “Lift all the boats with your rising tide.”