As election approaches, Normal council awards more Uptown tax incentives

Trail East
Trail East will be located on the northeast portion of Uptown Circle, and contain three floors of office space, a first-floor food court, and residences on the fifth floor. (Bush Construction, Farnsworth Group, and Town of Normal)

 

By Howard Packowitz

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members are unanimously behind providing additional tax incentives to aid an Iowa developer’s plan to start construction later this year on a five-story building in Uptown Normal.

Speakers at Monday night’s council meeting may have previewed the campaign that has yet to come before the April 2nd municipal elections.

Council challenger Karyn Smith warned the developer will come back asking for more tax breaks if there are more cost overruns. Another candidate, Stan Nord, said it’s insane to spend more tax money when other Uptown space is unfilled.

“When I talk with your constituents, and they learn about what Uptown has cost them and the lack of need it can not even fill, their blood begins to boil. I am representing the view of many of your constituents,” said Nord.

Incumbent R.C. McBride, running for a second term, said he doesn’t appreciate having to defend his sanity and integrity. Kathleen Lorenz, also running for a second term, received assurances from Davenport developer Bush Construction to hire local labor.

The council agreed last year to provide to the developer $8 million in tax increment financing funds earned from rising land values over the life of the TIF district, expiring in 2039. Latest council action adds another $400,000 in TIF money over the remaining 20 years because the developer acquired a third property earmarked for demolition, which is Windy City Wieners at 106 E. Beaufort. Building material costs are also going up.

The council also agreed to rebate up to $250,000 over five-years in sales, food-and-beverage taxes for the food hall, that would include the hot dog stand and other restaurants on the first floor of the Trail East complex, located on the northeast portion of Uptown Circle.

In addition to raising three properties, the council favors either demolishing or moving a popular, but deteriorating mural to make way for new construction. Retiring council member Jeff Fritzen said historic doesn’t necessarily mean old.

“I think what’s happened in Uptown Normal in the last two decades is historic,” Fritzen said.

Mayor Chris Koos said people who work at Trail East will boost the local economy by shopping, eating, and taking advantage of entertainment in the Uptown area.

“Hundreds of workers that are going to be there every day will be eating, and shopping, and entertaining themselves in our Uptown area, and will actually build economic prosperity for the community going forward, said the mayor who’s not up for re-election this year and has yet to announce if he’ll seek another term in 2021.

Former and future mayoral candidate Marc Tiritilli spoke out against the project at Monday night’s meeting.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at howard.packowitz@cumulus.com

Blogs

WJBC Voices: Plus ca change…

No Neck and his Democratic buddies patted themselves on the back and told us how happy we should all be now that we have a “balanced” budget for the first time in years.

WJBC Voices: Bipartisan fixing the pothole

Now that the spring legislative session is over, it’s amazing to reflect all that was completed: a balanced budget, legalized cannabis and a long-overdue infrastructure bill to fix our roads and bridges.