Site work continues on Trail East-West in Uptown Normal
The Town of Normal is moving ahead with work on the proposed Trail West and East Project in Uptown even though a development agreement is not yet in place, with City Manager Pam Reece saying there's a lot to be done before the start of construction next spring.
"Relocating transformers and 'under-grounding' electric utilities and making sure we are preserving access to the cistern. There are a lot of engineers working on what's underground and getting the site ready," Reece said on WGLT's Sound Ideas.
Reece said town staff hope to bring a development agreement with Iowa-based Eagle View Partners to the council for approval in the fall. It would cover incentives for the $50 million to $60 million, mixed-use buildings that would straddle Constitution Trail on the north side of Uptown Circle. The project also would create space for retail shops and restaurants, commercial office space, and more than 150 residential units.
Despite the high rate of inflation and the potential for a recession, Reece said the developer is telling the town its financing package is in order and a spring construction goal is realistic, adding Eagle View has has been working with its "financing team and their investment team, so we continue to move forward."
Earlier this year, the town council approved a memorandum of understanding with the developer that led to the current negotiations.
Reece also said the town is well-positioned to withstand a potential recession. The town still remembers lessons from the Great Recession in 2008-09, she said
"We learned how quickly we can dip into our reserves when times are tight. That's why we increased our level of reserves, basically our savings, to make sure we don't get into any financially challenging times," said Reece.
In a long-planned move, the town also paid off $8 million in bond debt at the start of the month.
Reece said current revenues are strong and a significant amount of development is happening that will also make the town's financial position stronger. If needed, Reece said the town would re-prioritize capital projects and potentially defer some improvements after conversations with the town council.
One capital project moving forward concerns a historic bridge on Virginia Avenue. Reece said the Camelback Bridge over Constitution Trail will get a new paint job on the supporting metal structure and the wooden bridge deck will be replaced. She said it's "significant" to use wood to preserve the historic value of the bridge.
There will be interruptions to travel on Virginia during the work.
Editor's note: The amount of the bonds the town paid off in June was $8 million, not $12 million as Reece said in the WGLT interview.