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Trail East and West projects advance with Normal Town Council vote

Trail East Trail West 2022 plan.jpg
Eagle View Partners / Farnsworth Group
/
Town of Normal
A conceptual rendering of the proposed Trail East (right) and Trail West mixed-use buildings on the north end of Uptown Normal.

The Normal Town Council voted Monday night to proceed with the Trail East and West developments after hearing an update from the Iowa-based developers who would lead the projects.

Eagle View Partners, based in Cedar Falls, Iowa, will oversee the project. Documents released last week gave basic information on the developments, including its mixed-use, five- or six-story buildings; a 198,400-square-foot footprint; and its $50 to $60 million estimated price tag.

On Monday, the community learned who the residential units are meant for. Despite the proposed buildings’ proximity to Illinois State University, ISU students are not the target demographic.

“We do have an income requirement that is there, so we probably wouldn’t have many students, or if we have students it would be graduate students or people that are, you know, adjunct staff at the university or something like that,” said Mark Kittrell, a founder of Eagle View Partners.

Bloomington-Normal needs more housing, due in part to the thousands of jobs rapidly added by electric automaker Rivian. Home inventory is low, home prices are rising, and rentals are scarce.

Kittrell, who did most of the speaking representing Eagle View Partners, said people ages 26 to 30 and single are the target demographic for the new Uptown housing units. That’s based off previous developments his company has done in Iowa.

But he added there’s another group of people he expects to fill up the new units, too.

“The other side of it are more my age, the baby boomers I guess you’d say, and it’s downsizing,” Kittrell said. “They have a second home that they’re thinking about … but we really want to keep them in the community as well.”

When asked about price ranges and income percentage requirements, Kittrell refrained from specifics due to being in the early stages of the project, and pending research.

The Trail East building would preserve a controversial mural on the brick facing of a building slated for removal. One wall of the building would be incorporated into the design of the new structure. Some structures on the west side of Constitution Boulevard also would be removed to allow development.

Kittrell said Uptown's historic fabric is evident.

"It needs to be honored. It needs to be absolutely preserved. And it also needs to be complemented with new buildings and new uses that really will make it the exciting place that I think everybody wants it to be," he said.

Council member Stan Nord was critical of the project’s early details throughout the night. He spoke of concerns about the Trail East and West’s retail and restaurant space, claiming 1 Uptown Circle’s first-level area has only been available for a restaurant and has been vacant partially because of that. Council member Kevin McCarthy disputed Nord’s claim, saying there was no restaurant-only clause.

Another point of concern for Nord was the age of the original Uptown Renewal Plan from 2000, which sets the stage for Trail East and West.

“This plan is 23 years old. Business folks, I’m sure you’ve heard of sunk costs … you realize, ‘Hey, things have changed’,” Nord said. “A 23-year-old plan in government — just keep going forward because we have to complete something. That is my fear.”

The resolution to move forward with Eagle View Partners’ plan and continue discussion was carried in a 6 to 1 vote. Nord was the only “no.”

The final redevelopment agreement, including any government incentives, will come to the council by July. Construction of Trail West would begin in August 2023, finishing in September 2024. Trail East would start construction in November 2024, reaching completion in February 2026.

Eagle View's plan is the second proposal for that land to win town support. A previous developer planned to build only on the Trail East site, but pulled out last fall due to financing issues, construction cost increases and market changes.

Meanwhile, council members on Monday also approved zoning code updates related to solar and wind energy. The solar energy code passed unanimously, while the wind energy code passed 6 to 1 with Nord was the only vote against it. He said he wants “more due diligence” in planning out the locations of large windmills because of issues like their large shadows, strobe lights, and noise.

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