Normal Town Council members could take their first step Tuesday toward another development in Uptown Normal, as they vote whether to begin negotiations with an Iowa company that wants to build a $29.2 million mixed-use building on the northeast arc of the circle.
Three proposals—ranging in cost from $21 million to $30 million—were submitted for the Trail East property, and Town of Normal staff says Davenport-based Bush Construction is the best option. Bush wants to build a five-story, 115,000-square-foot building on mostly town-owned land east of Constitution Boulevard, south of College Avenue.
The first floor would be retail. The second floor would provide office space for a consolidated Farnsworth Group and an unnamed tech company. The third, fourth, and fifth floors would be apartments.
Town staff picked Bush in part because of its “innovative funding strategy.” That includes New Market Tax Credits, a federal incentive typically used for investment in low-income communities. Investors receive a tax credit against their federal income tax.
“Bush anticipates requesting a contribution of TIF funds to be generated by the project. The amount of TIF requested would depend on final design and associated costs,” town staff wrote in a report to council members.
Town spokesperson Dan Irvin said Friday that the "proposal is not a plan." At Tuesday's meeting the council will be asked to "authorize negotiation of a development agreement with Bush," which Irvin said could take several months. Then the agreement itself would have to be approved by the council, he said.
Retail and Office Space
The project materialized because of unmet demand for retail and office space in Uptown Normal, town officials said. Farnsworth wants to consolidate several of its offices into a single location in Uptown.
"We can not only sustain it (more retail space), it's in demand," City Manager Mark Peterson told GLT recently. "We have inquiries every day from retailers looking for space in Uptown Normal. There just isn't any available right now. I don't think there's any question that retail space will get consumed quickly."
The Trail East development could include land currently occupied by town-owned buildings on nearby Beaufort Street. Irvin said Tuesday's vote on the Bush proposal "will not either preserve the three buildings, nor endorse their demolition."
"It is reasonable to assume, however, that there will be a discussion about the future of the buildings at the meeting," he said.
In response to concerns by some residents about the future of the Beaufort buildings, Mayor Chris Koos said on Facebook that there will be "ample time for public input."
"For those who are concerned for the haste, the Town will be considering the choice of a developer, not a project. That will come later, with ample time for public input," Koos said in a Facebook post.
If the project moves ahead, construction could begin as soon as fall 2018, with completion in October 2019. Around 200 jobs will be created during construction.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct that the day of the meeting is Tuesday, not Monday. It's also been updated to include new comments from town spokesperson Dan Irvin.
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