NORMAL — Normal is just getting started on its "uptown south" district.
Despite the City Council's approval Tuesday of a $35,000 topographical study of the area south of the railroad tracks that border uptown to be finished this spring, it could still be several years before the first development there, said City Manager Mark Peterson.
"A halfway-educated guess, I would say the library will be the first (development)," he said, referring to a project likely to be completed in 2021 or 2022. "Maybe a year or two after the library we may be in a position to see other private development.
"It could be sooner. You never know who's going to walk in the door and say, 'I love what you're doing, I want to be part of it and I've got money to invest.'"
Officials envision a new district south of the railroad tracks that would be anchored by a library and include public, private and residential development, possibly including townhouses, a grocery store and a pharmacy.
The study approved Tuesday, from Farnsworth Group, will cover "south of the Union Pacific Railroad west of Linden Street; east of Broadway Avenue, north of Phoenix (Avenue); and north of Irving Street, east of Constitution Trail," according to a memo from Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich.
Farnsworth will share information with WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff of New York, which is studying what kind of railroad crossing the town should build at Uptown Station. That's a $1.4 million study to finish in late 2018.
Meanwhile, OPN Architects of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is receiving $297,000 to do early architectural, engineering and urban planning work for the future library. That work is set to wrap up this summer.
"I don't have concerns (about overlapping studies). I think everybody will work well together," said Peterson.
The library, estimated at 75,000 square feet and $20.6 million, was the subject of two meetings centered on sustainability last week. Peterson said the project is expected to pursue the "Living Building Challenge" standard, an aggressive set of goals only eight Illinois buildings are pursuing, according to its website.
"I think it's, 'Let's reach high and try to achieve that standard, with a backup plan if we're not able to.' Everybody seemed to buy in to that approach," Peterson said.
A public meeting on the library project is expected in February or March.