ReStore expansion means more Habitat homes, west-side revitalization

BLOOMINGTON — Looking at the foundation for a 12,000-square-foot addition to the Habitat for Humanity of McLean County ReStore on Thursday, Stan Geison talked about hopes for building 10 homes and modifying 20 home exteriors a year and ongoing revitalization of west Bloomington.


That's because goals of Habitat's $1 million ReStore expansion include building and modifying more affordable homes for families and contributing to the commercial growth of the West Washington Street corridor, said Geison, Habitat's executive director.


"It's all about the families," said Habitat Development Director Noel Lucero. "We anticipate donations and sales will continue to increase. So the ReStore expansion will allow us to build more homes and serve more families."


ReStore, 1402 W. Washington St., is expanding with construction of a 12,000-square-foot building to the west of the existing main ReStore building, said ReStore General Manager Tyler Wiggs.


When construction of the new building is complete at the end of the year, that building will be connected to the existing main building, giving Habitat 20,300 square feet for ReStore operations compared with 13,500 square feet previously, Geison said.


During construction, ReStore operations — donation drop-off and processing and retail space — remain open in the existing main building, Wiggs said. When the ReStore retail space opens in the new building in spring 2018, operations in the main building will focus on processing donations. ReStore sells gently used appliances, furniture and household items.


Money from ReStore sales supports Habitat, in which volunteers partner with families to build affordable homesthat are sold to families at cost through no-interest loans. Habitat families come from substandard housing and can't qualify for other home-buying programs but have stable income and credit history.


Because the expanded ReStore should streamline donation drop-off and improve the shopping experience, Geison is expecting an increase in sales.


He hopes that, within five years of the opening of the expanded ReStore, store proceeds will cover 100 percent of Habitat's administrative costs and that Habitat will build 10 homes a year and do exterior modifications to another 20 homes a year. Currently, ReStore profits cover 91.5 percent of administrative costs, Habitat builds six homes a year and does exterior modifications to two to three others.


The $1 million comes from a commercial bank loan, which Habitat will repay from ReStore sales, Geison said. Catalyst Construction is the lead construction company for the project but a Habitat construction crew of retirees will do the interior framing.


"We made a conscious decision to stay in this west Bloomington neighborhood," Geison said. "It's healthy for there to be commerce on the west side of town and we're glad to be a part of it."


Karen Schmidt, alderman of Ward 6, which covers much of west Bloomington, said "The ReStore adds significantly to the West Washington corridor. It's a destination business and that's good for west Bloomington."


Originally published by Paul Swiech in The Pantagraph