Normal unveils final Uptown South design concept
Contracted by the Town of Normal, Doug Farr of Farr Associates Architecture and Urban Design Tuesday night presented the final design concept for redeveloping Uptown South to generally positive reviews.
Based on public input from a series of meetings this summer, the eight-acre area bounded by the train tracks, Constitution Trail, Linden Street, and Irving Street is planned to feature green spaces, multi-use business and housing spaces, and a “large format” space for a yet undetermined use.
After the presentation, members of the public numbering several dozen broke into smaller groups to discuss the design. Features like the two parks, street design, and Amtrak passenger drop-off loop received generally positive feedback with suggestions for tweaks here and there for things like bike racks and stop signs.
Mayor Chris Koos said the extensive community engagement has resulted in a plan that will be a boon to a community that continues to grow.
“A lot of younger people who think they’re only going to be here for five or six years, or they’re just starting out and can’t afford a house, or they don’t want a house, that type of housing is woefully lacking in our community, so I think that’s gonna be a big boost,” Koos said.
The main cause for consternation among the public was the purpose of the “large format” building.
The 2015 plan for Uptown South was meant to prominently feature a new public library, but some citizens feared the 66,000-square-foot, two-story structure in the new plan is too small and would have too little parking.
A significant contingent of college students insisted that the building should house a grocery store, as the nearest place to get fresh food—the Kroger on Main Street—is nearly a mile and a half away.
As he has stated previously, Farr said that a grocery store in that location would likely not be economically viable, but it would ultimately depend on desire of business owners who would occupy the new spaces. Farr also said the types of businesses the development would attract will complement the live-and-work housing design he and his firm have imagined for the post-COVID era.
“Housing needs to be planned to assume that you’re working from home, and home in a multi-story apartment building may mean that you leave your apartment and go down to a coffee shop in a lobby and that’s where you spend your day,” Farr said.
“The amenities in housing these days include work-from-home amenities so that you don’t go stir crazy in your bedroom looking at yourself all day.”
The final plan for Uptown South will be considered by the Normal Town Council in early 2023.