Bloomington Alderman Scott Black says “engaging the public is key” in moving forward with economic development projects. The City Council passed a resolution approving a contract to purchase the former Mennonite Hospital for $1.4 million, which formerly housed Electrolux on Main Street north of downtown.
Black said he’d love to see a development go into the Electrolux property that will benefit the tax payers in the long term.
“The proximity to Illinois Wesleyan, the proximity to downtown, I think there’s a lot of really beneficial projects [that] could go in there, it’s really key that the city has a say in what happens there,” said Black.
City Manager David Hales said the purchase is temporary until they can select the right developer to invest in the space.
Alderman Kevin Lower was the only council member opposed to redeveloping the Commerce Bank and Front N’ Center buildings in downtown Bloomington into a conference center, hotel and various restaurants. Lower said he’s not sure the project would help grow the local economy. Alderman Karen Schmidt expressed the majority council opinion saying she is very excited for the future of downtown Bloomington and called this a great opportunity to move ahead with growth.
“I do continue to hear supportive comments from people who have themselves invested their own dollars in downtown, and who I think see this as a tipping point as well,” said Schmidt.
The council also passed a proposal to redevelop the Colonial Plaza Shopping Center including Dick’s Sporting Goods to the location. The package included 10 years of 20 percent sales tax rebates. Economic and Development Coordinator Austin Grammar said the plan will hopefully drive more traffic to the center and assist in the leasing of surrounding empty commercial spaces. Grammar stressed the proposal has low risk and high benefit potential. Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner said the plaza is an eyesore for the city.
“That’s the first thing you [see] getting off Bloomington airport, welcome to Bloomington, here’s a dilapidated mall,” said Grammer.
Plans for four other businesses in Colonial Plaza are in development.