Food fight: Downtown Bloomington

By:  Diane Benjamin

I find it hilarious that Renner’s claim to economic development victories include two businesses stolen from Normal:  Dick’s Sporting Goods and a Kroger’s Superstore.  Both wanted more room, more room just happen to available in Bloomington – of course tax rebates didn’t hurt.  He still claims Greentop, Hy-vee, and now Ovation theaters.  All three were private sector projects, he didn’t find them himself.  He did provide incentives though.  Don’t forget Hy-Vee cost Bloomington a Cub Foods.

Recap of what we know about a hotel in downtown Bloomington:

  • Tari wants a hotel and convention center (we already have a lot of convention centers, but he wants one downtown)
  • Tari thinks a high-end hotel will help the Coliseum book events and promote development downtown
  • Developer Jeff Giebelhausen doesn’t have a deadline, as claimed, with the property owners – Huff’s.  He obviously is the only guy interested in doing anything with the property.  CEFCU may be nervous about ever getting paid back though.
  • A taxpayer-funded hotel feasibility study ($30,000 in December 2013) showed the project Tari wants leaves a wide funding gap.  Tari thinks future revenues would cover it.
  • Giebelhausen’s first proposal to provide “shovel ready” land died because of the cost  – $8.2 million
  • The City hired consultant (SB Friedman) said Giebelhausen’s 2nd plan wasn’t feasible, so it died.
  • Tari doesn’t want a “Jiffy Lube” or car wash downtown – he wants complete control of development
  • A couple of weeks ago Tari threatened to use eminent domain to take the Front and Center building.

Giebelhausen now is thinking of building a budget rate hotel with no taxpayer dollars.

Tari doesn’t want a budget hotel downtown –  he thinks they would rent rooms by the hour (See WJBC podcast from this morning if it gets posted).  Congrats to Scott Laughlin for questioning Renner’s claim.  (Review public comment from the last Council meeting.  A guy talked about local houses of prostitution!  Maybe Bloomington is growing jobs. )

Giebelahusen may also propose a Boutique Hotel that would require a City built parking garage.  Tari really wants a parking garage – the Coliseum garage wasn’t built anywhere near big enough.  That’s why drawings of the last project showed a sky walk to the Front and Center property.

Bringing jobs and growing the local economy are Tari’s goals.  A hotel provides low wage jobs.  Restaurants aren’t going to provide a lot of upward mobility either.  Are growing only low-wage jobs Tari’s goal?

Tari is stuck in the hotel box.  Therefore Bloomington is too.  The Downtown Master plan demands it, even though all the Master Plans pasted by the Council were sold as advisory.  They never were.  The next mayor needs to scrap all of them.  Government plans always fail, always need more money, and always stick the taxpayers with long-term debt.

Unqualified developers (aldermen) made plans for your money without considering your opinions.  Coliseum 2.0!

Tari, you can’t seriously believe the Front and Center building turned into a budget hotel would be worse than it is now.  If there really is a need for a downtown luxury hotel, lots of shovel ready land exists south of the Coliseum.  Maybe Giebelhausen’s latest “taxpayer free” plan is the key to getting somebody to build there.

Meanwhile, by day downtown is for lawyers.  By night it’s for drinking.  Celebrate the tax bucks already coming in instead of trying to cost bucks.





17 thoughts on “Food fight: Downtown Bloomington

  1. IF Tari would pull his head from the “kaleidoscope view” of a downtown hotel long enough to SEE what is NEEDED (rather then what czar Renner wants) MAYBE we’d get something interesting, and QUIT listening to Jeff G. He sounds like a fly by night developer using OUR money for HIS adventures-GOOGLE- George Graham Rice

    1. The way Jeff G. handled the most recent proposal for downtown, I wouldn’t trust him for any future project.

  2. Giebelhausen’s price is dropping quickly…..first he wanted $8.2M to prepare and sell the property to the city, now he says he can deliver a hotel on site for $7M. Maybe that is what happens when you remove government dollars and have to build something that will produce a return for investors.

  3. “Meanwhile, by day downtown is for lawyers. By night it’s for drinking.” And that’s ALL it will EVER be. They need to embrace it, it’s an entertainment zone, nothing more. Open more bars/restaurants, the people will go and they can count the tax money.

  4. I’m surprised they haven’t invoked the renewal plan of the early 1980’s for some of the downtown, mysterious fire. LOL That’s how many of those newer buildings came to be as I recall. I can’t remember if those all burned in one summer or several years.

    The mortgage hounds must be getting hungry. I can’t imagine the debt they owe on those vacant buildings.

  5. The talk of a budget rate hotel down town was just a scare tactic so the mayor can push through a bigger hotel so that he looks like he is actually saving the down town area. watch both hands people!!!

  6. Not only did HyVee cost a Cub Foods it also cost a Naturally Yours Grocery store. Just a locally owned and operates store. You know, the kind everybody always says they want more of. No biggie.

    1. Green Top Grocery will drive out the shop that is located downtown. PetsMart will drive out Premium Pet Supply, another locally owned small business. It’s called bait and switch, shuffle the deck–presto, I did it!!

  7. Never thought of that Jf! I guess now we’ll have Green Top to take the place of Naturally yours, and WATCH Tari claim a “new” business there too. I have a bad feeling that their location is going to be their downfall.

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