By Steve Robinson | January 7, 2019 - 10:48 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Developers unveiled what they have in mind for the proposed five-story building on the east side of the Roundabout during the regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal Town Council Monday night. During the meeting in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, representatives from Iowa-based Bush Construction laid out their vision for what that section of Uptown could look like once construction is completed, a project they have dubbed Trail East. They also laid out a proposed time table of when work on the project would begin.

Jerrod Engler, vice president of construction for the construction firm told Council members the five-story structure would be a 120 sq. ft. mix of brick and paneling, and that second and third floors already had companies already interested in becoming tenants. Private residences would make up the fifth floor, he added.

Engler explained the developers envision the building having a food mart located where it faces the corner of College Ave. and Constitution Blvd. Another tenant showing an interest and being added to the project is Windy City Wieners restaurant, currently located at 108 E. Beaufort St. Windy City Wieners, Slingshot Cowork at 106 E. Beaufort St., and the building which formally housed The Pod art center at 104 E. Beaufort St. would all come down to make way for the proposed development.

Town Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich told Council members all utilities for the new building would go underground along E. Beaufort St. and the Town will foot the bill for making that possible. He added construction could result in some street closures. He added the Town has been in contact with and will stay in contact with property and building owners in the area throughout the construction period.

John E. Bishop, senior architectural manager for The Farnsworth Group, told Council members structural design on the project would begin in May and implementing the design would begin in June. Anticipated completion for the roughly $30 million project would be August of 2020.

The proposed development had residents both in support of it and against it speak to Council members prior to the developers’ presentation. Resident Stan Nord in telling Council members he opposed the project, adding, “The Town should subsidize $4,200 per month rents. Normal is more than Uptown. Other parts of Town have needs.”

Resident Mike Matejka told Council members he supported the project and added he hoped the developers would use local union workers in the construction process.

In voicing his objection to the project, former Mayoral Candidate Marc Tiritilli told Council members, “Preserving artwork was mentioned when this project was brought up. Let’s shift to keep the artwork. There are ways to preserve the historic nature of this town.”

Mural Relocation Discussed: Concerning artwork located at 104 E. Beaufort St., Council members unanimously approved a resolution to waive the formal bid process and authorized City Manager Pam Reece to enter into an agreement with Bloomington-based The Farnsworth Group for removal and relocation of the mural there in anticipation of that location becoming part of the future development in Uptown discussed earlier in the meeting. In 2011, an art business, The Pod, located at that address, began giving access to artists to create a mural on the building’s west side which was visible from the Roundabout.

But the business closed in January 2017 and the store has been vacant since. During public comments to Council members at the start of the meeting, current Town Council candidate Karyn Smith registered objections to the destruction of the mural as being part of what would happen in order for the proposed five-story building to go up on that site. Smith said the change in the cost of construction of the five story building is all due to a change made by the developer.

Although not part of the original plan when Council members approved the plan in October, 106 E. Beaufort St., too, along with 104 and 108 were slated to be torn down for the building site. That change moved the project’s cost up by $800,000, from $29.2 million to $30 million. The Town’s contribution, too, has jumped as a result, from $8 million in future property taxes to $8.65 million in property and sales taxes.

Reece told Council members the cost involved in removing the mural from the building and relocating was researched by the Town and found to run between $56,200 and $81,560. She added the Town may seek to recover costs incurred in the project from the building’s previous tenants.

Council Approves Special Use For Rooming House: Council members unanimously approved a special use permit for a building in a residential neighborhood. A two-story home at 405 Normal Ave. is being considered as a rooming house for use by Alpha Omicron sorority. The sorority would like to use the building to house 23 students and a house mother. Normal’s Zoning Board of Appeals gave conditional approval to the project at their Dec. 18 meeting.

James Knightright lives a couple doors down from the building and told Council members he wasn’t concerned about the students who would be coming into his neighborhood, but rather that the process used by the Town “excluded locals” to give their say on the matter. In addition, he told Council members a parking ban on that street in force from 6a.m.-9a.m. was “inconvenient and treats students disrespectfully.”

Widmer Appointed To Children’s Discovery Museum Board: Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fritzen announced to the gathering the appointment of Rob Widmer to the Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation Board. Recently retired as President of Heartland Community College, Widmer, a grandfather of 11 children, has had opportunities to experience first-hand. He is filling an open seat of the Board and his term expires July 30, 2021.

Two Omnibus Items Approved: Council unanimously approved two omnibus items: Approval of minutes from the Council’s regular meeting of Dec. 17, 2018, and payment of Town expenditures as of Jan. 3, 2019.

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