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Uptown Building Project Shows Signs Of Life

190215_trail_east_5.jpg
Farnsworth Group
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A pandemic-deferred mixed-use project in Uptown could be on track again, according to Town of Normal officials.

The dormant Trail East project in Uptown Normal may be resuming progress toward construction.

Normal City Manager Pam Reece said the five-story office, food and residential structure lost steam when the pandemic suppressed the economy and forced developer Bush Construction to pause efforts to obtain financing.

"One of the financing strategies they identified was to take advantage of new market tax credits. That market kind of shut down a year ago. They have indicated now they are on track to have all their financing closed by June," said Reece.

Reece said the tenant mix remains the same, adding plans for the building may have tweaks because of the pandemic — but not big ones.

"Some of the occupancy might be reduced slightly. Some of their tenants might still have some of their employees work remotely, but what they have discovered is they want to maintain the same amount of square footage so the spacing of employees maybe grew a little bit," said Reece.

Reece said she does not think new hybrid work models will change the economic impact on Uptown, though fewer people will be there eating lunch and hanging around after work.

"I don't think so actually because we're not talking hundreds of people difference. We might be talking a few, or a dozen employees, a very limited number," she said.

Even before the pandemic, Bush Construction had never really settled on the end use of the fifth floor of the building. Reece speculates whether the developer will make up its mind in light of the recent real estate climate.

"There is a growing need for housing options in this community. As we have talked in recent years, not everyone is interested in the single-family detached home, traditional neighborhood. Some people want to be in apartments. Some people want to be in condos or town homes," said Reece.

She said she wonders whether the fifth floor will be residential. Reece said she hopes to see construction on the $30 million project begin sometime this summer.

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