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Historic place designation aids redevelopment proposal for Fairview building in Normal

Fairview Building
Eric Stock

A former health care facility in Normal is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Fairview building owned by McLean County was a tuberculosis sanatorium from 1919 until 1965. It later served as the offices of the McLean County Health Department until the agency moved to downtown Bloomington in the 1990s.

"The building exemplifies the significant history of the methods developed for the treatment of tuberculosis, an extremely deadly communicable disease for which no cure was widely accepted until after World War II. Fairview remained a critical component in McLean County’s health system at a time when the treatment of tuberculosis was becoming increasingly effective because of advances in procedures for both the identification and improvement of infected patients," said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) in announcing the designation.

The department's State Historic Preservation office had recommended the Fairview building for historic status along with 14 other sites in Illinois, including a 160-year-old farmstead in Mercer County and a Chicago movie palace.

“Each of these places tells a unique story that is part of Illinois’ rich history. They provide a physical link to the past,” said Natural Resources Director Colleen Callahan.

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of properties that merit special attention and preservation. In general, properties must be more than 50 years old to be eligible for listing, said IDNR. A listing imposes no obligations on private property owners, but does make properties eligible for some financial incentives.

Those incentives would help a proposal to re-deploy the Fairview property off Main Street in Normal as affordable senior housing. The Laborers Home Development Corporation, an offshoot of the Laborers' International Union, has proposed a 46-unit complex that depends in part on tax credits to finance construction.

"The existing structure will house some units, but that building will primarily have tenant services in it, such as a community room, a leasing manager's office, and maintenance personnel's office," Laborers Home Corporation representative Tim Ryan said in January 2021.

The first application for those tax credits was not successful, which is not uncommon, said Town of Normal staff. A second application deadline is approaching.

The Laborers Home Development Corporation also has expressed interest in an affordable housing project in Uptown Normal south of the train tracks, once the Uptown Underpass is constructed.

Editor's note: this story has been corrected to reflect the fact the Laborers' Home Development Corporation was not part of a refurbishment of the old Bloomington Junior High School into affordable housing.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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