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Bloomington City Council's votes aim to improve separate Main Street Corridor properties

Bloomington City Council meets Monday, May 23, 2022.
Michele Steinbacher
Bloomington Deputy City Manager Billy Tyus, third from left, speaks at the Bloomington City Council meeting Monday, May 23, 2022, in the downtown Government Center.

The Bloomington City Council voted Monday to take steps to improve two Main Street corridor properties — one helps downtown’s Red Raccoon Games expand, and the other is pinned to hopes of redeveloping the former Mennonite Hospital site, near Illinois Wesleyan University.

The council voted 7-0 to grant Red Raccoon Games owners Jamie and Kelly Mathy a development incentive package for the old Main Plaza, at the corner of Main and Jefferson streets. Council members Grant Walch, of Ward 1 and Jeff Crabill, of Ward 8, were absent Monday.

“It’s the second major downtown project that we’ve brought before you in the last several weeks that are going to completely redefine vacant spaces in our downtown,” said Bloomington Deputy City Manager Billy Tyus. Last month, the council approved a development plan for the CII East building.

Currently Red Raccoon is outgrowing its space at 309 N. Main Street, according to council materials. It'll double its space by expanding into the company's new property at 110 E. Jefferson Street. The company also will lease two new 2,500-square-foot retail spaces. Known as old Main Plaza, that building's been abandoned for more than a decade, Tyus told the council during Monday’s meeting.

The Mathys’ company will invest about $1.5 million into the revitalization project, said Melissa Hon, director of the city’s economic and community development department. In turn, the city will provide an incentive package that’s about 17% of the total project cost.

Jamie Mathy resigned from the city council earlier this spring to avoid a conflict of interest before submitting the proposal.

A variety of tax incentives are in place until the developer receives $196,000, or on March 31, 2029 — whichever comes first, she said. The city also will provide 12 parking spaces, and it expects to award a $25,000 Rust facade grant to the project.

Ward 3's Sheila Montney asked if such incentives had previously been offered to existing Bloomington businesses, because she'd not heard of that. Hon said the incentives weren't unusual, and recalled one involving a Bloomington car dealership that was expanding in the city.

Jamie Mathy told WGLT last week the gaming industry grew more than 30% since the pandemic’s start. Red Raccoon Games now employs more than a dozen employees.

IWU and city focus on abandoned Main Street site 

Also during Monday’s meeting, the council voted 7-0 to extend by one year an agreement with Illinois Wesleyan University in the pair's search for a developer at a 4-acre site in the 800 block of North Main Street.

Created in 2018, the big change to the upcoming year's extension is the municipality and university are dropping a listing with a commercial real estate broker.

The city and campus want a developer to take on the long-abandoned former Mennonite Hospital site. The bulk of the site is owned by Bloomington, but IWU owns two smaller parcels.

Hon said when the original 2018 agreement was written, Bloomington didn’t have its own EDC department. The latest version of the agreement finds Bloomington taking over the marketing role — seeking options that would jointly benefit the city and IWU. With Monday's vote, the broker, Coldwell Banker Devonshire, only will get commission if a developer locks in before this month’s end.

The city’s website offers details on requests for proposals, for the 800 North Main parcels, said Hon. The site also shows renderings of what IWU and Bloomington hope to do there.

Zoning change requests get mixed results

On Monday, the council also amended the city’s zoning maps, to allow Bloomington Municipal Credit Union to expand at 602 S. Gridley Street; and to allow the owner of 705 E. Washington Street to make that a two-unit dwelling. The two-story structure now has a first-floor office and second-floor apartment.

However, the council denied a request to allow Akshar Plastic and Bell International 1101 E. Bell Street to switch from restricted manufacturing to general manufacturing. The city’s planning commission recommended the denial, saying such a change would result in heavy industrial use near a residential area.

In other business, the council:

  • Approved spending about $550,000 on equipment and vehicles including two wheel loaders, a compact track loader, and a Ford F-350 dump truck.
  • Finalized plans to shift the city’s employee health insurance model. About $1 million is budgeted, and the shift is expected to save the city about $300,000 annually. 
  • OK’d a union contract for the city’s parking enforcement workers. The three-year contract with Local 362 Labors International Union brings 3% pay raises, retroactive to May 1. For fiscal 2023, the city needs to budget about $3,500 more than the previous year.. 
  • OK’d a site plan for a U-Haul mini warehouse and vehicle rental service at 1225 Holiday Drive.
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Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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