Bloomington council considering incentives for game store expansion

The City of Bloomington will consider a development incentive package that would allow a game store to expand downtown. Jamie Mathy resigned from city council to avoid a conflict of interest before submitting the proposal.

Jamie and Kelly Mathy own Red Raccoon Games. They would buy the Main Plaza building at 301 North Main, on the corner of Jefferson and Main, next to the existing store.

The renovated building will allow Red Raccoon Games to double in size and provide two new 2,500 square foot retail spaces.

“The building has been empty for 13 years and hasn’t had a substantial renovation for much longer than that. Our biggest challenges were a sprinkler system to meet current fire codes and an elevator to make the building accessible. ADA of the 8,500 square foot basement,” Mathy said.

The pandemic has helped Red Raccoon Games grow significantly as people turn to tabletop games during lockdown.

Mathy said estimates for the sprinkler system were over $60,000 and the lift could cost $175,000. Significant upgrades to the electrical system will also be required. This level of cost discourages many potential businesses from acquiring a downtown building.

Mathy said he applied to the city for a $25,000 frontage grant, sales tax refunds above the current business average, and the city’s portion of the property tax bill for the property. Sales tax rebates on the building’s two subdivided spaces would only apply if the businesses moving in are new and from outside the community, Mathy said. The package also includes parking spaces in the Market Street car park for employees.

“Most of the risk is on us. If we don’t continue to develop Red Raccoon Games, and if we don’t introduce new retailers that generate sales tax for the city of Bloomington, we won’t see much in the way of incentives. We are good with this challenge because we have no intention of slowing down,” said Mathy.

The city council will consider the proposal on Monday. City Manager Tim Gleason has long talked about grant programs to encourage businesses to take the sometimes scary step of investing in major infrastructure upgrades to older downtown buildings.

“Seeing a local business like Red Raccoon grow is great,” said City Manager Tim Gleason. “The added bonus is that it creates a true downtown destination, while giving new life to a long vacant downtown space.”

“This is the first big investment on Main Street in a long time, and I hope the city’s willingness to work with us and the city’s willingness to talk about elevators and codes will help transform more buildings, rehabilitate them and move exciting businesses into some of these big empty spaces,” said Mathy

History of the building

The building has been vacant for 13 years, since the Great Recession, Mathy said. It has a provenance that demonstrates the rich variety of the city center. Its foundation dates from before 1900, although the Great Downtown Fire of 1900 destroyed this building. Mathy said he believed another fire destroyed a second structure. But the foundation was once connected to the original steam tunnel network under the city center. Businesses that have occupied it since include Smith Barney, Habitat for Humanity, a State Farm agent, lunch counter and variety store.

“When it was rebuilt the second time it was the Woolworths in downtown Bloomington,” Mathy said.

Mathy said he hadn’t signed any new tenants, but believed his own business would pay for some of the expansion. It provides dedicated rental rooms for birthday parties and hard-to-serve playgroups in the current space.

“We’re going to continue to build on the genre of the grassroots community part,” Mathy said.

Mathy said that during the pandemic he launched an e-commerce site, and that part of the business has grown because his inventory is larger than many. A basement will help the store fulfill orders.

“Main Plaza came to market at the right time. This summer is the stores 15th anniversary and we are packed,” said Mathy. “Our industry grew 31% in 2021. We entered the pandemic with 6 employees, and now fully staffed we have 13.”

If the council approves, Mathy estimated that the project could be carried out early next year. He said he will advance a strategic plan that includes a rewrite of the mission vision involving staff last year.

“It was very important to them to make sure we added inclusivity. If that means someone with mobility issues can play with everyone, if that means someone identifies as LGBTQ, we want to make sure we’re a safe and reliable space for them. In the short term, it’s going to be interesting. In the long term, I think it will help us achieve some of the bigger goals we’ve set for the business.” , Mathy said.