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Bloomington council approves plan for QuikTrip travel center, redevelopment of CII East

John Pratt, attorney for QuikTrip Corp., addresses the Bloomington City Council on Monday, April 25, 2022, at the downtown Government Center.
John Pratt, attorney for QuikTrip Corp., addresses the Bloomington City Council on Monday, April 25, 2022, at the downtown Government Center.

A travel center will be built west of Interstate 55 and near West Market Street after the Bloomington City Council voted Monday night to approve the project.

The QuikTrip site will include fuel pumps and an 8,000-square-foot convenience store, as well as onsite video-gambling machines.

"QuikTrip is here already" and invested, said John Pratt, local attorney for the Tulsa, Okla.-based company. It's already bought the 80-acre site, he said, noting the company is footing the bill for nearby road, sidewalk, and sewer improvements.

Also at Monday’s meeting at the downtown Government Center, the council approved a CII East redevelopment plan, OK’d spending about $1.5 million for the design phase of an overhaul to the city’s distribution of drinking water, bought a new fire engine, and changed how it buys health insurance for city employees.

City Manager Tim Gleason said the three-hour session, which included discusion of several million-dollar decisions including the QuikTrip development, earned the council and city staff the right to a few victory laps. “This is one for the record books,” he said.

But Gleason hinted more announcements are on the way: “We’ve got a lot to tell the community,” he said, “More to come.”

QuikTrip a revenue boost to west side

Attorney Pratt said the company plans extensions of Wylie Drive and J.C. Parkway, as well as improvements to Bloomington Heights Road. QuikTrip will build sidewalks and make intersections safer for pedestrians, he said, and will pay for a city sewer line from Constitution Trail to Market Street.

"All that is being done at QuikTrip's expense, not the city's expense," said Pratt. After its built, the travel center will bring in sales tax revenue and two dozen jobs.

It aligns with the city’s 2035 comprehensive plan, said Kimberly Smith, assistant director for Bloomington’s economic and community development — it's land adjacent to the city, with access to city services.

Company representatives told the council its other locations on average bring a municipality about $1 million in annual tax revenue.

Just how much revenue will be generated, and what long-term road maintenance costs will fall to the city seemed unclear Monday, and several council members and public commenters criticized the process that left many questions about that.

Ward 3’s Sheila Montney and Ward 2’s Donna Boelen said the city should have provided the council with better financial calculations on the project.

The council voted unanimously to move forward with the QuikTrip preliminary site plan, though Ward 4’s Julie Emig voted against the annexation agreement, saying that while she supported the project, her “no vote” was a show of solidarity with people who had raised concerns.

During a hearing prior to the annexation, some public commenters spoke against the QuikTrip project. Shannon Ramirez gave an emotional plea to the council to not just think about money, but also the impact such a large fuel center would have on nearby residential areas.

“Our community needs more homes, not fuel centers,” she said, noting the QuikTrip would join a handful of similar truck stops on West Market Street.

Other commenters spoke against the city allowing video gambling at the site, and voiced concerns about noise, light and environmental pollution. Another decried the lack of a financial analysis available to Bloomington residents about the project.

Montney voted in favor of the annexation agreement, and the QuikTrip project. But the longtime opponent of video gambling spoke against the company wanting a license for the games.

Montney said gambling addiction is a real problem, and that Bloomington already is saturated with video machines. She also noted that of the 34 cents per dollar gambled, which goes to taxes, the majority — 29 cents—– goes to the state, not the city.

QuikTrip representatives contended the machines were entertainment, and the license was needed to compete with nearby truck stops that also have video gambling.

CII East, other building projects OK’d

QuikTrip wasn’t the only development the council addressed on Monday.

With council approval, developer 102 South East LLC will renovate the CII East building into mixed-use space, including street-level offices and a dozen apartments on upper levels.

The developer’s investing almost $4 million into the decaying building that has been an eyesore for many years, said Billy Tyus, Bloomington deputy city manager.

This project adds more housing to the market, and its downtown spot creates infill development, said Patrick Hoban, CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council. It also will beautify the Main Street Corridor, he said.

Under the plan, the city will abate all the owner's incremental property taxes and short-term rental taxes, and provide 20 parking spaces for 15 years. Gleason said that’s contingent on the District 87 school board approving its own agreement with the developer for its portion of taxes.

The council also voted to move forward with several other projects, including a new Fiesta Ranchera location at 604 IAA Drive near Veterans Parkway and East Empire Street; a 76-room StayApt Suites at 1032 Wylie Drive; and ABC Supply store, at 2402 ½ E. Empire Street.

Also, a new-to-Bloomington breakfast offering will be coming: Egg Republic, at 511 Chancellor Drive. Toastman Group II is filling a financial gap by investing nearly $800,000 in the restaurant site, said Melissa Hon, Bloomington’s EDC director. So, the company gets the incentive of a $158,000 tax rebate over a five-year period, she said.

Bloomington water delivery system up for redesign

In another matter, the council approved paying Donohue and Associates nearly $1.5 million to oversee the design phase of an overhaul of the city’s drinking water distribution system.

Public Works Director Kevin Kothe discussed the long-term plan that calls for moving the elevated pump station tank to the northeast over the course of 10 years. Elevated storage and central location will reduce pumping requirements, reducing energy usage, he added.

In a separate matter, the council OK’d spending up to $1 million with Ferguson Enterprises for the city’s water meter installation program.

Spending OK'd for insurance contracts

The council also approved changes to how it delivers city employee’s health insurance.

Monday’s vote ends Bloomington’s participation in a risk pooling arrangement with Blue Cross Blue Shield, effective July 1. Instead, the city will purchase health and life insurance directly through broker Holmes Murphy. The city projects a 6.6% reduction in insurance premiums, saving the city about $300,000 annually.

In a separate matter, the council OK'd a nearly $1.3 million annual contract with its longtime insurance broker Arthur J. Gallagher (AJG); and apprived a $123,000 annual contract with PMA Management. This insurer provides third-party claims administration services for workers compensation, property, auto, liability and professional insurance.

In other business, the council:

  • Purchased nearly $1.3 million in new city vehicles, including a $900,000 rescue pumper/fire engine for the Bloomington Fire Department; a set of 14-passenger buses worth about $200,000; and a pair of Ford pickups, outfitted as service vehicles for a total of $139,000.
  • Approved a contract of just over $1 million with George Gildner Inc. to oversee the city’s annual sidewalk and curb ramp replacement program.
  • Approved an amended bulk waste contract with Henson Disposal Inc., at about $56 per ton removed. The city has about $480,000 budgeted in the upcoming year for this work.
  • Heard from Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe he'll interview seven applicants for the vacant Ward 1 council seat.
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Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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