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Normal business seeking partners for new 'Design District'
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Normal business seeking partners for new 'Design District'

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NORMAL — A Normal home design business hopes to serve as the anchor of a new "design district" to open this year near the Shoppes at College Hills.

Walter Zich, president and CEO of Peoria-based KBL Design Center, said he's looking for partners for the new arrangement to start this summer or fall at 107 Mall Drive in Normal — where KBL operated a full showroom until 2018.

"We decided to close that store January of last year, but people still want a store in Normal," said Zich.

KBL has a smaller operation there that's open during limited hours. "KBL no longer needs a 21,000 square-foot space. What we really need is 5,000 square feet. So we're looking for new and established businesses that want to share resources."

Zich said he hopes to find other businesses dedicated to home fashion or furnishings to lease spaces of any size in the building, which he said is getting a $2 million renovation. He said they'll benefit from sharing reception, dock and  warehouse facilities.

"it can be for a new business or an established business. The whole intent is to make it convenient and easy for businesses associated with home services to get set up," he said. "It's somewhat of an experiment."

Zich noted the new KBL at the will focus on fireplaces and lighting, meaning businesses in cabinetry and other categories that KBL offers elsewhere are welcome to get involved. He added he's talking to businesses in the Peoria area that are interested in an easy way to sell in Normal.

"We want businesses sharing each other's traffic. I don't necessarily want things to compete with each other," he said. "We're hoping it will be a number of local businesses. ... I expect we'll say no to as many people as we say yes to."

Zich said he remains bullish on the location, which is across the street from Von Maur atthe Shoppes at College Hills. His real estate company, Wells Land LLC, owns the land

The Digital Store and Dr. Jill Young also use space in the building, once home to Leath Furniture.

Zich said other "design district" concepts, including Indiana Design Center near Indianapolis and Home Design Center in Lincoln, Neb., succeed when they're in good locations.

"We're pretty optimistic by the end of summer we can have enough interest to open," he said. "We just need to find other people excited about the market to work together."

R MarketPlace, Normal's first food hall, is expected to open in 2020 in the uptown Trail East building.

Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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