Q&A with Mayor Koos: New Uptown Building, Mural, And Parking | WGLT

Q&A with Mayor Koos: New Uptown Building, Mural, And Parking

Jan 18, 2018

Normal leaders are moving ahead with plans for a new five-story building on the northeast arc of Uptown circle, the next step in a dramatic reshaping of the town’s central business district.

The Normal Town Council voted Tuesday to begin negotiations with an Iowa developer that wants to build a $29 million mixed-use building with retail, office space, and apartments. The project has concerned some Uptown Normal business owners and community members because it might involve razing three buildings on nearby Beaufort Street, including the colorful mural that faces the circle.

While making no firm promises, Normal Town Council members committed to exploring ways to accommodate construction of the proposed 115,000-square-foot building, green space, and parking while attempting to save the three buildings.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos joined GLT’s Sound Ideas on Wednesday to discuss the project. Here are excerpts from the conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity.

GLT: What sort of value does the parking lot that would go away and become this building provide to Uptown Normal?

Koos: All the parking wouldn’t go away, but obviously a significant amount would go away. There’s a lot of parking available in Uptown Normal. It’s going to require people to take a different mindset to it. I’m told by people they will not park in parking decks. That’s just a deal-breaker for them. But I think if there’s enough activity down there to draw them in, they’ll change their ways.

Are there ways to combat the reluctance to use the parking decks?

It’s an interesting thing. If people want to be in a place, that they’re enticed to a place, they’ll do that. Look at downtown Chicago. Street parking—forget about it.

Are these buildings on Beaufort Street historic?

It depends on who you talk to. Are they characteristic of a period of the Town of Normal? Absolutely. Are they in good shape? They’re in relatively good shape. They’re of a kind.

They’re not landmark buildings by any means.

How about the value of the mural?

The value of the mural, you can’t put a dollar amount on. It’s something that people like. I’ve talked to other people that say, “Yeah, it’s kinda cute.” Some people are very tied to it, some aren’t. That mural has been there four years maybe. There’s always opportunities to do new ones.

Is it a deal-breaker with the developer if the buildings don’t go away?

We’ve not had that discussion. They will come to us with a concept plan for the frontage they’ll need on the circle. Not for the offices that have been negotiated but for the retail space. If there’s no retail on the circle, it’s not going to function very well on Constitution Boulevard.

Normal City Manager Mark Peterson has characterized this as an economic development project. What do you think?

I think it is. I think there’s a strong economic development component. For the current merchants and new merchants in that area, it’s gonna be a boon. You’re going to have somewhere around 225 to 275 office workers down there day to day. Many of them haven’t walked into your businesses, which they will now because of the adjacency of where they work to those locations. The restaurants will do well. The hotels will do well because a couple of those companies do have people that do come into the community. It can be an economic development issue.

You can also listen to GLT's full interview with Koos:

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