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Normal Town Council extends University Galleries lease

Written by on February 4, 2020

NORMAL, Ill.- The Normal Town Council discussed renewing the lease Normal has with the Illinois State University Galleries in the Uptown Circle. 

Illinois State University has been in contract with Normal since their first lease in 2013 when the university put $2 million into renovating what started as a dirt floor room in the parking garage into a space for art. 

 Council members said they did not believe the nonprofit art gallery benefited the town enough. The first to comment was Council member Stan Nord.  

“If we were to rent it out to a business, we would be generating property taxes which our school desperately needs. If that business were selling products then we’d be generating sales tax as well,” said Nord. “Instead of taxpayers subsidizing the property, we’d be generating a revenue from it as well.” 

Council Member Karyn Smith agreed and said ISU only gets 20 percent of state funding, which is much less than University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

Smith does not think the Normal community benefits as much as ISU does from this gallery.

Smith figured out that ISU is benefiting $17,000 from them. 

“Which you have indicated that there’s 17,000 visitors per year,” said Smith. “So, I doubt that we are getting a benefit equivalent to the grant we are forfeiting if it is equated to the rent we are providing to the Uptown provider.” 

On the other side, City Manager Pamela Reece explained the importance of the city’s relationship with ISU.

“The University Galleries brings people to Uptown,” said Reece. 

Mayor Chris Koos was also in support of locking in the five year extension. 

Council Member Scott Preston proposed a different structure for the lease. 

“I would be more comfortable if that was adjusted to, one, provide more notice,” said Preston. “Second option being instead of a five year lease doing a single year lease with four auto renewals.” 

Council member Nord proposed to table this idea, which failed. The members then voted on the resolution of the amendment of the lease which passed.