Political and downtown leaders heard two presentations about development Wednesday. One was a look at where the city is, the other a blueprint of how one city has grown. The city manager and mayor of Normal were at The Kensington Ballroom to show how that city reinvented itself through a public/private investment strategy.
Political and downtown leaders heard two presentations about development Wednesday. One was a look at where the city is, the other a blueprint of how one city has grown.
The city manager and mayor of Normal were at The Kensington Ballroom to show how that city reinvented itself through a public/private investment strategy. It went from what Normal City Manager Mark Peterson described as a “fairly sleepy little campus town” to one that will see $336 million in investments from 2004 to 2012 — $80 million of that from the city.
The crown jewel of the new investment is a 230 room Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. Not only is it a $75 million project, but Illinois State University will be able to take advantage of it by hosting more conferences and presentations, which it was unable to do because the major hotels were all one to three miles outside Normal.
City Manager Dane Bragg said Galesburg obviously is not looking at taking on such an extensive downtown rehabilitation project. In Normal, the city bought a lot of property, tore it down and got it ready for development. In Galesburg, the situation is “very, very different” because the city is working with mostly existing structures.
Kent Massie, of Massie & Massie Associates, followed the presentation from Normal to update the city on the progress of the downtown development strategy. He said the city had a lot of good news, but also acknowledged the challenges it faced.
“There’s no easy solution for Galesburg,” he said. “You have some great assets, but no real apparent solution that’s just staring us in the face.”
The downtown positives included the city’s active commercial district and few vacant storefronts, the presence of two colleges, the historic character and streetscape, the proximity of residential neighborhoods to downtown, the presence of local government and churches downtown, the budding tourism industry and the city’s mass transportation ability with Amtrak.
Massie, who has been working with the city steering committee, did identify some problems as well. He mentioned the blighted warehouses and industrial buildings, the lack of a clear definition of the borders of downtown, the confusing traffic configurations that will become more confusing with future railroad over- and underpasses and the vacant buildings off of Main Street.
Massie did not offer any specific plans at this juncture, nor did he provide any objective data. He said there will be some comparative data in the final presentation, but he said identifying how a downtown should grow was “a fine science” and it was more important to figure out where the city wants to go rather than what other cities are doing.
Along this line of thinking, next Wednesday there will be an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. at the new Orpheum Theatre offices (in the former Little King location) for citizens to offer ideas and suggestions on the following five topics: businesses, civic facilities, visitor attractions, the colleges and residential living.
Massie said he expects to have an action plan the council can vote on completed by early April.
Contact Matt Hutton at firstname.lastname@example.org