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Mayor Of Normal Details Reasons For Nonstandard Commercial Leases Of Town Property

Mural and Beaufort buildings
Ryan Denham
Mayor Chris Koos said a variety of factors affect how much rent the town can and should seek from business tenants of town-owned buildings.

Many factors influence how much rent the Town of Normal charges tenants of town-owned property, according to the mayor of Normal.

Mayor Chris Koos unpacked several scenarios during WGLT's Sound Ideas following narrow council approval of a five-year, rent-free lease to Illinois State University of space in a parking deck for the University Galleries.

Mayor Chris Koos said a reason to offer low rent might be to allow the town to clear out the space with three months' notice if development plans accelerate.

"If I'm a businessperson and and I want a space and this space looks pretty good because it's so affordable, but now it's market rate, I can't get a five-year lease on it. So, do I invest in that building, in that property? No. I can't do it. It doesn't make sense," said Koos.

The mayor said other factors that could reduce rents include poor location, non-monetary benefits to the town such as cultural contributions, and high refurbishment costs.

Koos said the town has a number of nonstandard rent agreements based on site-specific reasons. One such deal is the building on Linden Street that houses Wild Country. Koos said Wild Country pays property taxes and building operating costs even though the town owns the structure.

"How much would the town have to invest to bring it up to current code? When a building vacates like that you have to bring it up to current code. What's the cost for the town? Is there a viable tenant that wants to come into that knowing I may be here 10 years, I may be two years," said Koos.

Other properties, like the buildings that house the OhmFit Activewear apparel store and offices for a state representative and a congressman, pay very low rates too. Koos said he expects that to eventually be torn down as part of any Trailside West project development. Koos said the town has a clause that allows it to force tenants out with three months’ notice in case of redevelopment.

He says other small parcels have odd shapes, are hard to get to, or are at the edge of the business district.

Regarding the University Galleries location, Koos said he believes another factor is that ISU essentially prepaid rent through reimbursing the town for improving the previously undeveloped space. He said in his mind the additional five years offered rent free balances the ledger, and he would not see the town offering lower cost payments to ISU after the new five-year lease expires.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.