Bloomington, Ill., to Get Uptown Hotel

NORMAL - Three years ago, developer John Q. Hammons expected to open a $30 million Marriott Hotel in downtown Normal by February 2007.

But instead of hosting a grand opening celebration last month, Hammons was turning over the first ceremonial shovel of dirt for the project, pushing the opening back to fall 2008.

During the years in between, the town faced an eminent domain trial to get some of the land for the project; Marriott made changes that forced a redesign of part of the interior; the price of building materials skyrocketed; and bids for the project came in high - twice.

Hammons revised the expected cost of the hotel and accompanying town-owned conference center in February 2006 citing increasing construction costs. At that time, the hotel was expected to cost $38 million and the conference center $12 million, instead of the original $8 million.

The developer said he would pick up the entire $8 million increase for the hotel and would split the hike in the conference center costs with the town. He wanted his $2 million share of the conference center to come from a taxable general obligation bond issued by the town so he would get a better interest rate. He would be responsible for paying back the bond and interest.

The City Council agreed to the plan in March.

When Hammons received the first construction bids in August they were higher than even the revised estimated costs. He decided to re-bid the project with a pre-selected group of three general contractors. Those bids also came in high.

The cost of building the hotel was now up to $50 million. The conference center cost also jumped another $2 million to $14 million.

Town officials met with Hammons and in December, the City Council agreed to a new financial package for the project. The town would kick in an additional $1.3 million plus give Hammons the $1.2 million it was saving on a planned 500-space parking deck that would serve the hotel and uptown Normal.

Bids for the parking deck came in under estimate. Originally, it was expected to cost $5 million. That estimate jumped to $9.8 million in February 2006, but included an increase in size from 300 spaces to 500 spaces. Bids for the project came in at $8.6 million.

In addition, the town would increase the amount of taxable bonds it issued for Hammons from $2 million to $4 million. Hammons would see an additional $1 million in savings from the recently expanded enterprise zone. New projects in the enterprise zone are exempt from paying sales tax on building materials.

Hammons' cost for the entire project increased from an initial $30 million to $51.5 million. He will pay $4 million toward the conference center and $47.5 million for the hotel.

Core Construction received a building permit for the hotel on Feb. 9 and for the conference center on Feb. 12. The nine-story, 230-room hotel will be built on land bordered by Beaufort Street on the south, Fell Avenue on the west, North Street on the north and Broadway on the east.