The cost of saving a row of historic buildings in Uptown Normal may come into play when the Town Council reviews a design concept for the Trail East project next month.
The Normal Town Council in January selected Bush Construction to develop the $29 million five-story, mixed-use building on the northeast arc of Uptown circle. Farnsworth Group, which would occupy part of the new building, is designing the project.
Some are concerned about the Trail East project because it could lead to the demolition of three nearby older buildings on Beaufort Street. One of them has a colorful, iconic mural—a popular spot for photos—on its western wall facing the circle.
“Right now Bush is evaluating, along with the Farnsworth team, if those buildings can be saved, what would it take? What would be the investment required to save those buildings? And if not, why not? And so they're preparing that story,” said Normal City Manager Pam Reece. “And that's what we will discuss with council in June.”
No decisions have been made about the design concept and whether it will require demolition, Reece said on GLT’s Sound Ideas.
One consideration, she said, will be cost.
“We're a little bit concerned about what would be required if the (town-owned) building (at 104 Beaufort) was intended to be redeveloped or reused,” Reece said. “The building as it stands right now would require, we believe, a minimum of a $300,000 investment, just to bring it up to code. And so that would be a significant investment on a building and then of course the future of the mural, in terms of its current state, we would have to figure out what to do with that.”
Reece said the mural’s future remains uncertain.
“We have been discussing the mural and why the mural is of such interest. If one looked at the mural today they would see that the paint is chipping off and it would need some attention, regardless of what happens with the building,” she said.
“And if the mural is gone in the future, I think it'd be incumbent on us to find some sort of replacement type of experience for citizens,” she said. “And if the mural is replaced with public art, maybe that's an option. Something that brings the same sense of uniqueness and energy is what we need if the mural is gone.”
Meanwhile, the first-floor space in the new 1 Uptown Circle building remains vacant. That building was finished in late 2017.
Reece said the developer, Doug Reichl with Tartar Realty, is still trying to find a restaurant that wants to move in.
“As I understand it, some of the challenges are associated with the buildout of the space. It's a beautiful space. It's an envelope right now, so to speak, and it would need to be finished,” Reece said. “And to finish that space out with an appropriate kitchen and such would be probably $1.5 to $2 million, and from a restauranteur’s perspective, I'm told that that sort of initial capital investment is very difficult.”
How much urgency is there?
“I believe there's some time to go on the clock. But I think more from just an overall Uptown energy perspective, we're very eager to get some action in that space,” she said.
You can also listen to GLT's full interview:
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