Council Briefing: City Looks to Redevelop Former Mennonite Hospital, Agrees to CVB Funding

 The  4 acres along North Main Street the City of Bloomington and Illinois Wesleyan University plan to market for mixed use development includes the former Mennonite Hospital building, (Photo: Christian Prenzler/AdaptBN)

The  4 acres along North Main Street the City of Bloomington and Illinois Wesleyan University plan to market for mixed use development includes the former Mennonite Hospital building, (Photo: Christian Prenzler/AdaptBN)

A memorandum of understanding between the City of Bloomington and Illinois Wesleyan University approved Monday night is the first step toward redeveloping 4 acres of land on North Main Street, including the former Mennonite Hospital building.

 The former Mennonite Hospital Building with boarded up windows and doors. (Photo: Christian Prenzler/AdaptBN)

The former Mennonite Hospital Building with boarded up windows and doors. (Photo: Christian Prenzler/AdaptBN)

The City purchased 3 acres of land at 807 N. Main St. in 2016; IWU owns the remaining acre of the project area. Community Development Director Bob Mahrt said the two plan to market the area as one project, with a joint request for proposals calling for “new, mixed-use structures with ground floor retail commercial and upper floor residential units.”

The City had been eyeing the area for a potential Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district, completing a TIF eligibility study in 2016. But as Mahrt noted, the City now recognizes TIF as “an option of last resort” under new economic development incentive guidelines passed late last month.

Mahrt said the City hopes to issue a request for proposals by December.

CVB Memorandum of Understanding

Council members also approved a memorandum of understanding between the City and the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau detailing the CVB’s economic development services to the City in exchange for $475,000 of funding through the current fiscal year.

Mahrt said an intergovernmental agreement between the City, the Town of Normal and McLean County expired six months ago.

CVB Director Crystal Howard said the 220,000 visitors the CVB attracted to the area last year had a nearly $7M impact on McLean County. Compared to the $693,000 of Town and City hotel tax funds the agency received, Howard said the CVB created an over 10-to-1 return on municipal governments’ investments last year.

Alderman Diana Hauman asked whether CVB leaders had considered moving the agency, currently housed in the terminal building at the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, to a more central location in Uptown Normal or Downtown Bloomington. Howard said the CVB plans to research possible locations ahead of the expiration of its 2-year lease with the Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority.

“Yes, we would be delighted to be in a place where we can actually have visitors walk in and out,” she added.

Alderman Scott Black commended Howard for providing “the kind of gold-standard numbers and metrics we like to see when we come forward to the public to talk about how we use our investments.”

Black, who serves on the CVB board along with Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner, said while the agency’s location at CIRA “doesn’t make any sense,” it will need to carefully research future options to transition from the airport.