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Housing Starts In Normal Are At The Edges Of Town

Construction worker at a home project
Charles Krupa
For the first time in years substantial numbers of new homes are being built in Bloomington-Normal.

Most of the new housing development in Normal is happening closer to the edges of town than filling in or redeveloping areas closer to existing neighborhoods.

City Manager Pam Reece said the town has seen activity in Greystone Fields near Normal West high school, Pheasant Ridge, Blackstone Trails, Northbridge, and the Vineyards. Reece said those are all subdivisions that are more recently annexed.

"We also know that those subdivisions aren't completely built out. So, there could be more additions in the future as growth continues," said Reece.

Most activity so far in Normal is traditional single-family homes. Reece said the town has talked with some developers interested in apartments, town homes, and condos. She said there is a need for that market segment, but developers have not yet filed proposals.

There were 81 new homes that began construction in 2020, up 38% from the year before. That pace accelerated in early 2021, with 23 new starts from January to April. That’s about double what it was in early 2020, according to Town of Normal data. Town staff said new subdivision platting activity is well underway.

People are also doing a lot more remodeling. Residential remodeling permits more than doubled during the first four months of 2021 — from 101 permits up to 226.

Inspections staff overtime

The Rivian plant has provided a lot of work for building and trades union members as the plant gears up for production this summer. Reece said that also means the planning and code enforcement staff with the town have a lot to do.

"Most of their work time is spent reviewing plans for Rivian construction and out there (at the plant) doing inspections," said Reece.

Reece said those workers are still keeping on schedule with new housing construction plans filed as well.

Return to normalcy

A year plus of Zoom city council meetings could be almost over in the Town of Normal. Remote video has taken the place of almost all governmental meetings in the past year. Reece said the town decision flows from state rules.

"If we do in fact get to Restore Illinois Phase 5, then the city council will go back to in-person meetings. So there is a possibility that our second meeting in June could be back in our council chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station," said Reece.

Reece said she's looking forward to the change for the council, boards, and commissions because the context of meetings is richer in person than on a screen. She said people perceive non-verbal communication differently than how they perceive body language in person.

"I think that's important when we're in a group setting or even when it's one on one. When you look at a camera, that's fine, but you don't get the same conversations, I think," said Reece.

Illinois is expected to reach Phase 5 about June 11.

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