A little while ago, we had the opportunity to visit Hans Morsbach's new Medici in downstate Normal, Illinois, home of Illinois State University. Readers may recall that we posted on this development last October. About a month ago, we decided to check it out in person.
The food was pretty good, as was the selection of locally brewed beer, served from the capacious bar that Morsbach can't have on 57th Street. But the most delicious thing of all was the irony that less than 100 yards from the new Normal Medici, co-owned by one of the most vocal opponents of a proposed Hyde Park Marriott Hotel, is ongoing construction on a 9 story, 229 room Marriott Hotel, with attached 43,000 square foot conference center and 500 spot parking deck.
This complex is being built on land that was acquired through various means by the Town of Normal, and is intended to be an engine of commerce and activity in the city's older central area, literally right across the street from Morsbach's new Medici.
The new Medici, in addition to offering profitable alcoholic beverages, will most certainly also benefit from the new hotel and convention traffic across the street, all of which has been partially subsidized by the local municipality. Which, as we pointed out in our original post, includes the nice historical recreation of the storefront that originally stood at the site of the Normal Medici.
The good people of the Town of Normal are under no illusion as to what's going on. They are much less conflicted than Hyde Parkers about what they want. It is urban renewal. It involves the use of eminent domain. It has required the displacement of some long-established businesses, the willing relocation of others, and the inclusion of major corporate businesses into the plan. There's an office on the main street that oversees it all.
As we posted back in October 2007,
While this particular project [the Normal Medici] involved no use of eminent domain and condemnation, the Town of Normal agreed to subsidize the Morsbach-Steinman redevelopment project to the tune of "up to 30 percent or $350,000 of the annual interest costs on their first mortgage, provide a $100,000 grant for life/safety work and a $15,000 facade improvement grant." (Bloomington-Normal Pantagraph, September 7, 2005).Now, none of this would be as interesting as it is if Morsbach hadn't been one of the most vocal opponents of the proposed Marriott Hotel as the site of the current Drs Hospital in Hyde Park, or someone who felt that the threat of redevelopment at Harper Court was an ominous sign of a "second coming" of Urban Renewal.
But let's step inside.
That's a tree from Morsbach's Wisconsin tree farm, inside the restaurant. It's a nice space, with lots of the unique hand-crafted wooden stuff, and there's a helluva lot more light and room than in the Hyde Park location. Plus, there's booze.
To close out, we'll leave you with this tasty little excerpt from the menu at the Normal Medici, which offers an interesting perspective on the restaurant's storied history:
If only the Medici-Hyde Park were as happy to be part of the "refurbishing of this district" -- the one on the South Side of Chicago.