Hotel Project A 'Tipping Point' For Downtown Success

Jul 12, 2016

An artist rendering of what is now the Commerce Bank building, looking at the northwest corner of Washington and Madison in Downtown Bloomington.
Credit Jeff Giebelhausen/Farnsworth Group

City officials could get their first detailed peek into plans for a downtown hotel during a meeting next week. Bloomington alderman Karen Schmidt, whose ward serves downtown, said during Sound Ideas, the project could prove to be a major impetus in reviving the central business district.

"There's a lot of excitement about this and understanding that this is probably a tipping point for the downtown to take it to the next level, " said Schmidt.

Commonwealth Hotels of Covington, Kentucky wants to build a $52 million hotel, possibly a Hilton Garden Inn, at Center and Front streets.  Mayor Tari Renner agreed that the hotel could be a tipping point for Downtown. 

"We already have people that are interested in some of the other properties, like the Pantagraph Building, areas south of the coliseum that the moment this is approved by the council they expect these properties are going to be instantly worth more and they want to move on second and third phases, said Renner.

Some city funds will be needed for the overall development. Renner said the funding will be constructed so tax revenues from the hotel will be used to pay for the city's investment. Schmidt agreed and said any public funds to be used for the project would come directly from revenues it produces.

"We're not dipping into general fund money. We're paying off whatever investment the city makes with money that would come back to use because of this investment," said Schmidt. 

Officials with Commonwealth Hotels could possibly meet with aldermen and city officials next week to go over details of the proposal. It would include a parking deck and conference center, connected with skyways. East Peoria developer Jeff Giebelhausen has been negotiating with potential developers to refurbish the old Front 'N Center and People's Bank buildings. Alderman Schmidt said she and other council members are anxiously awaiting independent vetting of the proposed facility by SB Friedman Development Advisors, who she called Bloomington's "risk advisors."