© 2023 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bloomington council OKs next steps for 790-unit housing development near Rivian

An aerial view of the proposed site of the Bloomington 77 Development, just north of West Market Street at Old Peoria Court.
Ryan Denham
Google Earth
An aerial view of the proposed site of the Bloomington 77 Development, just north of West Market Street at Old Peoria Court.

A plan to build nearly 800 apartments and townhomes near Rivian Motors is moving forward, after the Bloomington City Council on Monday approved an annexation agreement for the project.

Named for the 77-acre space on the city’s far west side, Bloomington 77 Developments intends to create housing that’s more affordable than some recent housing developments announced over the past year, Phil Hoffman told the council. He and partner William Koffie are focused on reaching the workforce most in need of housing, he said.

The land, north of West Market Street off of Illinois, 9 also will include recreation trails and other spaces, and a trio of 30,000-square-foot commercial areas.

“You have a developer and his team that see great potential, and great need in our community,” said Hoffman.

A crowd stands in the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts auditorium, as the Bloomington City Council stands on stage before the beginning of the Monday, July 24, 2023 meeting.
Michele Steinbacher
A crowd stands in the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts auditorium, as the Bloomington City Council recites the Pledge of Allegiance on stage before the start of the Monday, July 24, 2023 meeting.

“It’s pretty rare that we have something that impacts the entire community, as fully as it sounds as if this is going to,” said council member Mollie Ward, noting a recent study indicating a need for thousands of homes in the Twin City area. “This project alone represents 10% of that number.”

Monday’s council meeting was in the auditorium of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA) — the first of several planned there in July and August while the council’s usual downtown meeting space is renovated.

The council also approved more than a dozen actions in a single consent agenda vote, with no discussion. In addition to its regular monthly bills, the consent agenda included more than $1.2 million in spending. About half is dedicated to a $612,000 street preservation project.

West side development targets Rivian workforce

A public hearing preceded the annexation vote, but it drew no public comment. The developers led a brief presentation, and fielded questions from the council.

This far west side project is the latest in a string of developments coming into play to address Bloomington-Normal’sgrowing need for housing.

The developers aren’t asking for special waivers, conditions or financial incentives from the city, Hoffman said.

“We are just asking for an opportunity to make use of existing infrastructure and a chance to build a positive future for the west side,” he said, noting he and Koffie have been researching the project with community leaders for nearly three years.

In response to questions about many of the developments underway targeting higher-end rentals, Hoffman said Bloomington 77 will offer options for the “forgotten middle” range of renters.

“This project directly meets the needs outlined in the most recent Economic Development Council study, the EDC’s ongoing narrative on housing shortage, and the City of Bloomington’s comprehensive plan — that asks us to ensure that housing to accommodate the new growth is a broad range of types, sizes — equitably distributed throughout the city,” said Hoffman.

The annexation agreement vote was 7-1. Ward 2’s Donna Boelen voted “no,” citing concerns about added infrastructure costs the city will incur.

Council member Kent Lee, who represents Ward 8, was absent Monday.

The Bloomington Planning Commission, and the city’s zoning board unanimously backed the proposal, recommending the council move forward.

Bloomington 77 Developments will construct about 790 dwellings, ranging from one- two- and three-bedroom apartments to larger three- and four-bedroom townhouses. They’re described as “market rate” in a description provided to the city.

Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe said the community has been concerned about the lack of housing, and its impact on recruiting and retaining the workforce.

“While we don’t know exactly what the price points of these units will be, I believe more units available will definitely assist the community in applying downward pressure on prices, and make it a little bit more affordable for people,” he said.

“We’re trying to reach out, and find something for that truly middle section,” Hoffman said after the meeting.

The next step is the development agreement, and Hoffman and Koffie hope that comes before council this fall, Hoffman said. Ideally, construction could begin in spring 2024.

The project also includes storm water detainment city officials say will help protect downstream residents from flooding.

Internal access roads will be constructed that will connect to Illinois 9 at a signaled intersection. A second access would be provided only for emergencies, according to developers.

Links at Ireland Grove project moves ahead

Another housing development on the city’s east side, also moved forward Monday.

The council OK’d the final plat for the third addition to the Links at Ireland Grove Road Subdivision.

A multi-family housing development is planned there, south of Ballybunion Road and east of Tullamore Avenue. This project is for a 17-building complex.

No video of meetings at BCPA

Bloomington routinely live streams its city council, and other meetings, on its YouTube channel. But that wasn’t the case Monday at the BCPA.

Technical issues are hindering the process, and it’s unclear if recordings of these government meetings at BCPA will be available, said city spokesperson Katherine Murphy.

In other business, the council:

  • Approved an estimated $612,000 contract with Donelson Construction to handle the high-pressure slurry seal pavement. The council waived formal bidding requirements.
  • OK’d a $90,000 contract with Corrective Asphalt Materials for one of the city’s annual pavement preservation programs.
  • Approved the Bloomington Police Department’s request for about $65,000 to purchase gun ammunition.
  • OK'd an agreement with Stark Excavating for material disposal. The projected annual cost is about $410,000. Broken down, that’s $31 per ton this year; $32.25 in FY2025; and $33.50 in FY2026.
  • Authorized a plan to evaluate which city facilities can use solar energy. The council awarded Dewberry Engineers a $62,500 contract for the study.
  • Amended the city's energy brokerage agreement with the Stone River Group, by extending the deal for three years.
  • Heard details about the city’s Youth Enrichment Program, from more than a dozen participating interns.

WGLT correspondent Colin Hardman contributed to this report.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with donors across the NPR Network – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
Related Content