Normal Approves 2015 Budget

Published 03/03 2014 10:14PM

Updated 03/03 2014 10:45PM

NORMAL - For months, Normal residents have been waiting for the hole in the ground near Uptown Circle to be filled. Now, with a budget of about $103 million for fiscal year 2015, it's gearing up to take the next steps forward with the development.

"It's a relief to me," said city manager Mark Peterson. "I think everyone's excited to see construction started."

And after months of legal negotiations, the plan is finally in motion again.

"I'm going to do a jig in my office, when I look down on that site and see the first construction crew in there working," said Peterson.

But those plans are now a little bit different. Originally, thought of as one big project, the total cost has risen to about $45 million, up about 25 percent from initial estimates.

Phase One will start with a Hyatt Hotel, and once that's finished, residential and commercial space could be added in as well.

"It will enable Normal to increase the conference business that's already been established through the Marriott," said Jeff Fritzen, town council member.

"The potential for us to have some very nice Uptown residential space will be very attractive," said Sonja Reece, town council member.

Town Council also approved plans to add a pedestrian skywalk, connecting the Amtrak waiting area to Uptown Station.

Right now, five incoming and five outgoing trains move from the circle, but that could move to nine of each when high speed rail plans are cemented. Normal leaders say there's no telling how effective that could be for the area.

"I think it will not only benefit the town of Normal, but all of Central Illinois when the high speed rail is finished," said Peterson.

And, with that, they’re bracing for a business boom for the town, with higher hopes for the future.

Council also approved plans to contribute $75,000 for Fortune 500 company RR Donnelley to start a pilot program in the Twin Cities. Bloomington's council is expected to do the same next week. The council also factored in $2.25 million for a potential property swap with Illinois State University, to set aside land for a new fire station.

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