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Town of Normal seeks new developers for Trail East and Trail West projects

Proposals involving the two projects are required to include pitches on how to provide "Class A" office, retail and residential spaces.

Town of Normal officials on Thursday released a request-for-proposals seeking developers interested in one or both of the town's Trail East and Trail West redevelopment projects.

The RFPs comes after Iowa-based Bush Construction LLC announced it was pulling out of the Trail East project on Sept. 16. That project aimed at putting a multi-story, mixed-use building around the 104 and 108 East Beaufort Street area, on the northeast arc of the circle.

City Manager Pam Reece told WGLT that since Bush Construction's withdrawal, "a number of developers" have contacted the town expressing interest in the site.

"We decided that it would be in the town's best interest to, in order to move forward expeditiously, post an RFP and see who responds to it," she said. "That allows us to focus conversations going forward with just one developer since we've had so much outside interest."

Reece said town officials are optimistic that a single developer will be interested in both the Trail East project and the Trail West project; the RFP requires submissions that include plans for redeveloping both properties.

"What this does is provide the developer an opportunity to look at both sites and see what would work best for them and then submit a proposal for our consideration," she said, adding it's possible the town could end up working with two developers, or it "could look at one who wants to do both" projects.

Language in the RFP acknowledges that plans submitted for the Trail East plan "will be significantly near completion while Trail West will be more conceptual."

The Trail West project is located at 100-104 North Street; both projects are focused on adding a multi-story, mixed-use building at each site.

Proposals involving the two projects are required to include pitches on how to provide "Class A" office, retail and residential spaces.

According to Building Owners and Managers Association International, the designation indicates those spaces are in the "most prestigious buildings competing for premier... users with rents above average for the area."

"Buildings have high quality standard finishes, state of the art systems, exceptional accessibility and a definite market presence," the group's description notes.

"It would be up to the prospective developer to make sure that they they price their space to the market share they want to have," Reece said. "We'll just have to balance all of that when we get their proposal and (see) who are they trying to target as their prospective tenants."

Uptown mural

The RFP also includes a disclaimer about a mural on the east wall of 102 North Street.

The mural was the subject of a federal lawsuit by the artists who painted it. They filed the suit in 2019 amid concerns that the art would be demolished during the Trail East redevelopment.

A federal judge dismissed the suit in 2020 after Normal officials said they wouldn't destroy the mural, but move it as part of the then-planned redevelopment project with Bush Construction.

The disclaimer in the RFP issued Thursday warns potential developers that "alteration or destruction of the mural may have implications under the federal Visual Artists Rights Act."

"In this particular instance, we just want potential property owners to be aware of any possible issues they may face in regards to the liability," Reece said. "That's just to make them aware of what the mural issue has been, the previous lawsuit, and to make sure they do their due diligence before they decide if they want to incorporate that property into their proposed development."

Developers have until Dec. 3 to submit their proposals.

Reece said town staff hope to make a recommendation to city council members by Feb. 1.

"If the stars are in alignment, we can hopefully get this moving forward and potentially be on a developer's 2022 construction schedule," she said.

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Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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