Council Briefing: Uptown Developer Named, Funding Granted for Local Initiatives
On Tuesday, January 16, 2018, The Normal Town Council discussed issues including the Uptown Normal development project and funding for BN Advantage. The Council also held a closed executive session to discuss the search for a new city manager. Current City Manager Mark Peterson plans to retire in March after 30 years with the Town of Normal.
Council members authorized the Town to begin negotiations for a development agreement with Iowa-based builder Bush Construction for the proposed Trail East project at Uptown Circle.
During public comment, Bloomington-Normal residents urged the Council to protect the three historic Uptown buildings and a popular mural that could be demolished as part of the project.
The proposed five-story 115,000 square foot building would cost an estimated $29.2M and includes first floor covered parking and 8,500 square feet of retail space. The second floor includes 23,000 square feet of offices for Farnsworth Group, Inc. and an unnamed tech company, as well as a covered courtyard area. The third, fourth and fifth floors are designed for 1-3 bedroom apartments.
The project will create an estimated 200 jobs during construction, which Bush anticipates will begin in the fall, with completion in October 2019.
An internal staff committee chose Bush Construction’s proposal in part because it would use New Market Tax Credits to help fund the project.
What’s Next: Peterson said it will take “substantial work” by Town staff and the developer before any plans are ready for the council’s approval, estimating that approval won’t happen until late spring or early fall. Until then, the Town will continue to study whether it would be necessary to raze the Beaufort Street buildings.
Funding for Local Initiatives
The Council also granted the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council its requested $100,000 for regular programming and an additional $67,000 to both the EDC and McLean County Chamber of Commerce to fund BN Advantage initiatives.
Council members called on BN Advantage members to present additional information on how the funds would be used and reporting the strategy’s progress so far.
The McLean County Board chose not to approve BN Advantage funding; the City of Bloomington last month approved $123,867 toward program initiatives.
Peterson said while BN Advantage has made good progress on many initiatives, he’s seen little to no movement on entrepreneurship. Both the Chamber and the EDC are charter members of BN Advantage, with the EDC responsible for entrepreneurship as well as marketing and communications initiatives, and the Chamber taking care of workforce development and quality of life and place. Peterson and Koos are members of the BN Advantage Leadership Council.