Former Electrolux building finally torn down

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Rosa Zapata, News Editor

 

If you have recently walked down Main St. towards downtown Bloomington, you have probably noticed a huge demolition site where the former Electrolux building once stood.

“In some ways, the old Electrolux building was the essence of something that’s dilapidated. It was allowed to sit like that for years, and I insisted that they take it down,” said Tari Renner, the mayor of Bloomington.

Renner said that there are many potential plans for the former Electrolux building, including talks of converting it into a tax increment financing district, which would encourage development in the area.

For several years, Bloomington was the headquarters for The Eureka Co., a vacuum company that eventually became Electrolux. The Eureka Co. had manufactured vacuums, heaters, air conditioners and more in Bloomington since the 1940s.

Prior to Electrolux, that building was a sanitarium named after and built by Dr. George Kelso in 1918. Soon after, the Central Illinois Mennonite churches bought the Kelso Sanitarium and added a hospital as well as a nursing school.

As time went on, new additions were built near the Mennonite hospital, including a residence hall for nursing students that was built in the late 1940s. That residence hall was later bought by Illinois Wesleyan University and named Martin Hall.

In 2011, Electrolux relocated its headquarters to Charlotte, N.C., leaving the site up for sale.

“The city considered it a hazard to anyone. We were seeing evidence that people where entering the empty building,” said Tom Dabareiner, a staff member of the Planning and Zoning department of Bloomington. “There was an accumulation of alcohol bottles, and even some evidence that there might have been some fires started in there, perhaps to keep warm.”

“Since our primary concern was the safety of the public, we started a code enforcement effort. So, we sat own with the current owners of the property and worked out a timetable for its demolition,” Dabareiner said.

Carl Teichman, Director of Government and Community Relations at Illinois Wesleyan, said that “both the [Illinois Wesleyan] and the group that owns the former Electrolux site are working to see if there is a developer who would be interested in the entire site.”

“Hopefully someone would buy the entire block, which is bounded by Walnut St. on the north, Chestnut on the South, Main St. on the west and an alley on the east,” Teichman said. “Ideally, the same buyer would purchase the university portion and the other portion, and develop it as one whole unit.”

Renner expressed interest in converting the area into a tax increment financing district, or, simply, a TIF district.

“A TIF district encourages redevelopment by taking the increase in any property tax over a period of time and using that money to invest in infrastructure in the district.  It can be used in some cases as an incentive to make property more marketable. It would make the site more attractive for future developments,” Renner said.

In addition, Renner mentioned that whatever the property ends up being used for, he would make sure that it would remain consistent with the historic framework of Franklin Park district. As such, it must fit the goals of the West Bloomington Revitalization Project, an ongoing project started in 2008 to improve the city of Bloomington’s economy and infrastructure.

“In any case, we want it to produce an economic spillover. That is, we want to encourage surrounding neighborhoods to renovate their houses, establish new buildings, etc.,” Renner said.

Although what the former Electrolux area and the property owned by Illinois Wesleyan will be used for is currently tentative, Teichman assured that the university in particular will be careful.

“Obviously, we would like to see something that would enhance the area. But that’s a really broadly defined thing. I know some people in the past have talked about having some sort of restaurant, some sort of grocery store, a whole litany of things that they would like to see. But that’s going to take a developer to do that, much like they did in Normal,” Teichman said.