One Uptown gets its latest tenant – a new restaurant on the circle

A long dormant part of Uptown Normal finally has a tenant.

The owner of Hacienda Leon in Bloomington will open another such restaurant at One Uptown, on the Circle. It is one of the flagship buildings of the Uptown district. The restaurant could have more than 100 seats and complement existing dining options. The development would cost more than a million dollars.

“We continued to trust this market. We are thrilled to finally be able to energize the circle with the vision we all had,” said Doug Reichl, one of the owners of One Uptown and director of the Chicago-based Tartan Realty Group.

Reichl said Hacienda Leon could open in late March or April next year.

“They can’t wait to get started. They hired an architect. The space has already been studied beforehand. So I think it’s probably aggressive but doable,” Reichl said.

The rest of One Uptown opened nearly five years ago, and city officials had at times expressed frustration with the restaurant’s lack of tenants. Reichl acknowledged that the economy, the pandemic and other hurdles made it difficult to find an operator.

“The space is in a more or less raw state and it takes significant capital to transport it from where it is to open and serve food,” Reichl said.

Reichl said Tartan also wanted to be particular because they had a wad of cash on the upper floors.

“We weren’t really interested in just putting a former tenant in to occupy the space. It had to be, I think, consistent with the quality of the property and it could in no way diminish the investment we have there,” Reichl said.

Reichl said he’s optimistic about the future of Uptown and Hacienda Leon, but doesn’t think the neighborhood can accommodate more restaurants due to a lack of street-level parking. He said the mayor of Normal and another member of council helped review the tenant of the One Uptown space.

The City of Normal rents the second floor of the building, and the upper floors are apartments.

“We have been 100% let in the apartments since we opened. So, by all indications, it was a resounding success. Except the last piece was the tricky part,” Reichl said.

Reichl said Tartan has a few other projects in the works in Bloomington-Normal.

“We are buying PNC Bank at Veterans Parkway and Shepard Road in Normal near Sam’s Club. And we are working on a multi-family project which is preliminary at this stage,” Reichl said.

A recent study by the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council showed a housing shortage of 4,300 in the Twin Cities. City and municipal governments have asked developers for more upscale apartments and condominiums and said the study proves there is a market for this segment. Reichl is less enthusiastic than city officials because he compared it to the Chicago market.

“Generally, the market there is skewed towards buying. I think Bloomington has a much lower demand for high-end apartments or high-end condos. The scale of your project somehow dictates so what you end up doing. I think this study shows a demand for apartments. It really doesn’t come into the price. To me, that’s the biggest thing, threading that needle on this market. There’s has a cost-sensitive market,” Reichl said.

He said condos are a completely different type of product than apartments, and condos are built to higher quality standards. He said that even with the strong EV maker that Rivian has had, and some of the executives and management types, he still thinks the condo market is limited.

“In this market, you could buy a house, right? Higher earning people have the option of owning a home and I think in this market that’s probably what he prefers. You are in competition with this option. And just know what I know about our property; we get a few types of people. We welcome retirees who like the benefit of having a secure environment with someone else to care for them. It’s one category of tenants and the other is the cadre moving into the market which is a bit transient, still figuring out what they want to do. And we get them for a while,” Reichl said.

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