NORMAL – Local residents have been asking for it. Chicago natives here rave about it. And at Monday’s Normal Town Council meeting at Normal City Hall at Uptown Station, Council members took another step to bringing the famed eatery to Town.
Council members voted unanimously to authorize executing of a redevelopment agreement with Bloomington Landmark Development Inc. regarding construction of a Portillo’s restaurant which will be located on N. Veterans Parkway. The site is currently the home of a Motel 6. Plans call for the motel to be demolished and construction of the restaurant is slated in time for it to open sometime in August.
Before the vote, Council members discussed the potential benefits of bringing the eatery to town. City Manager Mark Peterson told Council members representatives from Chicago-based Portillo’s had spent the past six months scouting locations in town to place their first restaurant this far south within the state of their original location.
The land currently is home to a three-story, 132-room Motel 6. Plans call for the motel to be demolished and construction of the new restaurant to begin in the spring. The new restaurant and parking will sit on 2.51 acres of land. The motel ownership was compensated for its property.
The project developer will be investing between $8 million and $9 million. Land costs along Veterans Parkway are the highest in the region. The developer must acquire and raze the motel.
Bloomington Landmark Development Inc. is seeking $1,825,000 to meet a standard rate of return for such a real estate investment. The proposed agreement provides for a rebate from the Town of all sales, and food and beverage taxes from the restaurant to the developer to a maximum in that amount. Town Staff estimates it will take about seven years, if not sooner, for the amount to be repaid. That time figure is based on Portillo’s sales projections.
Council Member Cheryl Gaines asked Peterson what he thought was good about replacing one revenue producing business with another in these circumstances. Peterson said the motel brings $35,000 in motel tax to the Town annually. He said Portillo’s would bring in $450,000 in food and beverage tax dollars.
Council Member Kevin McCarthy admitted $1.825 million “was a lot of money,” and asked Peterson if this agreement would have taken place without that clause set by the developers. Peterson said no.
Council Member Jeff Fritzen said the Town has done this before, trying to calm concerns people might have concerning property taxes in relation to the deal. He said the Town most like set a precedent for such agreements over 35 years ago when the original College Hills Mall was built. After the meeting, Fritzen said Normal’s tax base at that time was not strong enough to pay for such projects. To compensate, the Town offered sales tax rebate incentives to the developers of the mall as a means of building a commercial real estate tax base.
Community Investment Plan Gets Approval: Council members heard about the prospective spending on projects which are part of the Town’s Community Investment Plan. CIP is an outlay of the projects the Town looks at to determine its spending needs over a five year period. Council members unanimously passed a motion to approve CIP for the next five fiscal years beginning with 2016-2017 through 2021-2022.
Andrew Huhn, Town Finance Director, told Council members 2016-17’s CIP includes 177 capital projects that are to be addressed during the six-year period, beginning in the current fiscal year. Those 177 projects total roughly $98.8 million. The current CIP also lists $124.8 million worth of potential projects that are not being recommended over the six-year span.
Following the meeting, City Manager Mark Peterson told reporters what items become deemed critical for addressing with funding during those fiscal years “is really a judgment call by Town Staff. There aren’t that many that are considered critical, but those are usually ones that involve needed repairs.” He cited an immediate repair becoming necessary involved repairing a failure in the filter system at Fairview Park Aquatic Center in order for the pool to be used next summer.
Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:
• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting on Nov. 21, 2016.
• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures as of Nov. 30, 2016.
• A motion to approve the Town meeting calendar for the year 2017.
• A resolution of intent for the use of Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) funds to finance refunded general obligation bonds.