The developer presenting plans to the Bloomington City Council Tuesday said during GLT's Sound Ideas if he'd known two and a half years ago it would take so long, he wouldn't have gotten into it.
Jeff Giebelhausen told WGLT's Mike McCurdy that his youngest son is a freshman at Illinois Wesleyan and he's "vested in Bloomington."
"I believe in this project. I do believe in Downtown Bloomington. I believe the negatives are a very vocal group," said Giebelhausen. "I want to address their questions absolutely accurately, one at a time, and when the facts speak I think it's clear this is a good project for the city.
Giebelhausen is proposing a $53 million hotel and conference center, reusing the Commerce Bank and Front 'n' Center buildings as hotel, restaurant and retail space. The conference center space and parking garage, located a block to the west, would be connected by an elevated walkway across Madison Street.
"At 12,000 square feet we're going to be in the sweet spot of conferences," said Giebelhausen. "It's more than enough to fill our hotel rooms and flow into other hotels but at the same time it's not so large that we have a lot of idle space sitting empty day after day."
He said it's about growing the business and attracting new conference business to the community. The conference space could accommodate events generating 600 to 1200 attendees. Since the hotel will only have 129 rooms, those extra attendees will have to find hotels on Veteran's Parkway and Market Street.
Giebelhausen also spoke about the benefit of the hotel to the U.S. Cellular coliseum and vice versa.
"If the coliseum was privately owned, the owners would be doing everything in their human power to make a hotel happen," said Giebelhuasen. "Nobody wants to talk about the coliseum because it has a negative connotation in Bloomington. The reality of it is, the city owns it, the city needs to make it as successful it can be and one of the primary ways of making it successful is to make it more attractive to people to come there for their events."
The ground floor of the hotel would be comprised of retail and restaurant space with a sports bar on the side nearest the coliseum, an upscale eatery in the Commerce Bank building and a seafood bar on the corner facing the Law and Justice center.
Giebelhausen meets with the Bloomington City Council at 5:30 PM Tuesday evening at city hall.
He says people can learn more about the downtown proposal at new website called We Believe in Bloomington.