The Bloomington Redevelopment Commission recently got an update on the proposed schematic design of the 4th Street parking structure, a six-floor, 504-space structure with 9,800 square feet of retail/office space facing Walnut.
Commissioners Don Griffin, Sue Sgambelluri and Eric Sandweiss heard from Josh Scism of CORE Planning Strategies, Bill Riggert of the civil engineering firm BRCJ, and Joe Raper of CSO Architects, the firm hired to design this estimated $18.5 million project. F.A. Wilhelm Construction is the construction manager.
The team described design features including two public restrooms, 50 bike parking spaces, electric vehicle charging stations, public art, solar roof panels, and a drop-off zone for buses, delivery vehicles and rideshares like Uber and Lyft. The design is also oriented for possible future connection to an expanded convention center.
Scism also discussed two issues affecting the site's south end: 1) a parcel on the southeast corner that the city hopes to acquire, currently owned by Juan Carlos Carrasquel of JuanSells.com Realty Co., and 2) underground and overhead utilities – for AT&T and Duke Energy – that need to be moved. The construction budget includes costs related to utility relocations, though the exact amount hasn't been determined.
Carrasquel attended the meeting and spoke to commissioners about the city's efforts to buy his property through eminent domain. On June 7, the city filed a Complaint for Condemnation with the Monroe County Circuit Court, beginning the process to purchase Carrosquel's land through eminent domain.
"I'm the owner of the property to the south, and I'm not a willing seller and I want everybody to know that," Carrasquel told commissioners, calling the public purpose of the city's action "questionable" and "illegitimate."
He didn't take issue with building the garage. He suggested an alternative of building the structure higher and eliminating retail space, allowing the city to have the same number of spaces while letting his LLC– called 222 Hats – keep the property.
City attorney Larry Allen told RDC members that the city's Board of Public Works determined that this project – including the proposed retail space – is for the public good. They made that determination at their April 30, 2019 meeting. The city is working to determine a fair valuation of the property, he said. The in-court proceedings and out-of-court negotiations are happening on parallel paths, he said.
Susan Sandberg, who serves on City Council and the Plan Commission, told the RDC that she's been very impressed by the professionalism of the project team, and stressed that the entire project is for the public benefit.
Allen noted that the Uniform Development Code (UDO) requires retail space in projects like this. The relevant section is within the Overlay Chapter 20.03 for the Downtown Core Overlay – specifically, section 20.03.120 (e) Ground Floor Non-residential uses. An excerpt: "(2) All properties to which this subsection applies shall provide ground floor nonresidential uses along the applicable street frontage. No less than fifty percent (50%) of the total ground floor area shall be used for such nonresidential uses. Enclosed parking garages shall not be counted toward the required nonresidential uses."
During the meeting, Alex Crowley, the city's director of economic and sustainable development, talked about outreach that the city is doing to businesses, including the garage's key tenants. He noted that two businesses – Blockhouse Bar and The Back Door – can only be accessed through the alley along the west side of the garage. The city is working with them to understand their needs, he said. Other outreach will be happening with nearby neighbors and businesses, as well as the general public, Crowley said.
Later in the meeting, the RDC approved an increase to CSO Architect's contract for work at both the 4th Street and Trades District garages, for an amount not to exceed $1,197,950. The item had been added to the RDC's agenda at the start of its meeting.
Funding for these projects is coming from the city's Tax Increment Financing (TIF), which the RDC oversees.
A Technical Review Committee has given input on the design. Chamber President and CEO Erin Predmore serves on that committee. The RDC is not required to approve the design. The project will be presented to the city's Plan Commission at their July 8 meeting, which will also include a public hearing on the design.
Next steps also include submitting requests to the city for variances needed on the site and starting the bid process for demolition. The city is also negotiating a guaranteed maximum price and a base contract for construction, which will determine the bond issuance, according to city controller Jeff Underwood. "The market's good and it looks like it's going to stay good," he told RDC commissioners.
At its next meeting on Monday, July 1, the RDC will be asked to approve a final contract with F.A. Wilhelm Construction for the project's "construction manager as constructor (CMc)." That meeting starts at 5 p.m. at city hall, 401 N. Morton. Click here for the meeting packet.
Watch the RDC's June 17 discussion on CATS here. Read a report by Indiana Public Media here.
Erin Predmore, President and CEO of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, issued the following response to recent comments by Jerry Falwell Jr.:
We have been horrified as the tragedy at the border seems to get worse every day. The recent publication of the images of the migrant father and toddler brought the reality closer to all of us. As the voice of business in our community, The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce rejects Jerry Falwell Jr.'s characterization that business/entrepreneur experience somehow validates disgusting treatment of our fellow humans.
Our members care deeply about our community, lead with compassion and honor, and attempt daily to add shared value to our economy. "Making payroll" or building an organization "from scratch" are experiences that have changed us, but they haven't caused us to reject the humanity of those in need. They also don't somehow make our opinions about the border crisis more valid than other caring individuals.
We stand with our fellow humans, Dr. Falwell, and we still make payroll, build things from scratch, innovate, shape our community, and make room for all. In fact, we currently have hundreds of available jobs and would be happy to have some new neighbors.
Stefan Reiss, a Berlin-based artist, will be creating new public art for the Bloomington Trades District. The work will be located at the intersection of 10th and Madison streets, on the Gateway Plaza of the city’s 12-acre technology park.
A review panel from the Bloomington Public Arts Commission selected the work – called O.T. 987 – from over 70 applicants. It will be Reiss' first U.S. installation. His proposal was chosen after a four-week public comment period, which yielded more than 350 comments on five finalists.
The budget is between $80,000 and $100,000. Funding comes from Bloomington’s Percent for the Arts Ordinance (Chapter 2.12.021 of Bloomington’s Municipal Code), which stipulates that at least 1% of construction costs for eligible capital projects be used for public art at that or another site.
Reiss describes O.T. 987 this way:
The basis of O.T. 987 are four independent lines in the basic colours red, yellow and blue, supplemented by white, which move through space in four strands as three-dimensional signs. The individual colour lines seem to repeat themselves, but still form an individual course, overlapping and creating spaces in between. Each side of the sculpture surprises with a completely new view. During the day, the basic colours plus white determine the entire sculpture.
The sculpture consists of square tubes, one side of each element being fitted with Plexiglas in the same colour. LEDs are installed in the square tubes, which are activated and controlled by a computer in the dark. A programmed choreography of the LEDs is played over a fixed period of time (e.g. 30 min.) and brings the sculpture to life at night.
During the day, the colors red, yellow and blue, or white, are separate, overlapping color strands. During the nocturnal LED programming, the luminous individual colours are transformed into exciting nuances, the light now mixes and illuminates in different shades, the basic colours are joined by new shades that create a special colour spectrum with the natural surroundings.
The installation will likely be in place within 12 to 18 months. Click here to learn more about the artist.
There is currently a vacancy on the Bloomington Public Arts Commission. Click here to apply.
How does our local government set priorities for funding projects? Youth Participatory Budgeting (YPB) is a program that helps young residents learn this process by allocating real dollars for projects they propose.
The City of Bloomington's 2019 budget includes $15,000 for a new YPB program. Students who attend a Monroe County school and who will be in grades 8-12 at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year are invited to participate. Proposed projects must benefit the general public in one of the following categories: arts/culture, education, environment, recreation, social concerns or "other."
Several communities nationwide have launched some type of participatory budgeting, including Boston, Seattle, New York City and Denver.
Get more details about Bloomington's effort on the city's YPB website, including a timeline for this process. Ready to apply? Click here. And follow the process on Instagram at YPB Bloomington!
Want more info? Check out this post on CitizenLab: "8 Steps to Effective Participatory Budgeting."
Monroe County government is undertaking a comprehensive review of our local criminal justice system, including the jail, courts, community corrections, probation department, law enforcement agencies, the prosecuting attorney's office and public defenders.
The county Board of Commissioners has hired consultants to lead the project: Kenneth Ray of Restorative Justice Services; criminal justice consultant Allen Beck; and former Dept. of Justice attorneys Eve Hill and Regina Kline of Inclusivity Strategic Consulting, which focuses on civil rights and inclusion for persons with disabilities. The contracts total $212,000 for this phase.
Upcoming public forums are being held to get input from the community, facilitated by the Monroe County Human Rights Commission and the Community Justice and Mediation Center:
The county recently issued a press release to describe this effort. Here's an excerpt:
The Correctional Center is an aging facility (built in the 1980s). It was originally built to house 128 people. Renovations have increased the maximum capacity, so that there are now 284 permanent beds. The population, or number of people in the Center, often exceeds the number of permanent beds.
No Monroe County leader wants to spend taxpayer dollars to, simply, build a bigger jail with more cell space to house more people.
Monroe County leaders DO want to give meaning to and emphasize the word CORRECTION in the name CORRECTIONAL Center, because human lives are at stake. Those lives include not only the people in the Correctional Center, but also their families, friends, co-workers and neighbors.
The criminal justice system affects not just the lives mentioned above, but affects anyone who lives, works or visits Monroe County. The criminal justice system, truly, affects the quality of life in Monroe County, and how well it works really matters.
With that in mind, Monroe County leaders intend to look at everything we do related to criminal justice, to identify strengths and gaps in our services. Essentially, Monroe County is going to take a good, long look at our criminal justice system to identify what we are doing well and on what we can improve.
Read the county's full press release here.
The City of Bloomington is planning to join MetroLab Network, a consortium that supports partnerships between cities and the universities in their community to boost civic innovation.
Devta (pronounced DAVE-tuh) Kidd, the city's Innovation Director, announced the plans at the City Council's June 12 meeting as part of a broader presentation on her work. MetroLab's goal "is to help cities establish formal relationships with their local university to treat the city as a living laboratory and leverage the braintrust of the university, especially in research, for those really big, thorny issues that we encounter," Kidd said.
The application process requires a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Mayor John Hamilton and either Indiana University President Michael McRobbie, Provost Lauren Robel or Vice President for Research Fred Cate.
Currently, South Bend is the only Indiana city that's a MetroLab member, partnering with the University of Notre Dame. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg wrote about the partnership in his book, "Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model." He also gave the keynote at MetroLab's 2017 annual summit, describing a project that put "smart sensors" into the city's sewer system.
Check out MetroLab Network's website to learn more about this effort, including a list of members and projects.
Did you know that the City of Bloomington has a quick way to report problems with services or facilities? The uReport is an online tool to alert the city about issues with parking, street repair, parks, hazardous situations and more.
For example, click on the Cleanup & Sanitation icon to see a list of specific issues to report: debris removal, excessive growth (presumably not economic growth!), graffiti, leaf collection, recycling, trash, and yard waste. You can upload a photo of the situation and write a brief description before submitting.
Interested in tracking city performance? The Bclear portal provides information on a range of operations, from filling potholes to annual compensation reports. There are 181 datasets available on Bclear so far, including nine that relate to business/economy.
One of the Chamber's roles is to ensure our members and residents are well-informed so that they can be more engaged participants in our community. Have an issue you'd like to learn more about? Let us know! Contact Mary Morgan, the Chamber's Director of Advocacy & Public Policy, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 812-336-6381.
Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is one of the economic development arrows in the quiver of municipal financing. In the City of Bloomington, TIF funds are overseen by the Bloomington Redevelopment Commission.
Click here to read the city's 2019 annual TIF report.
At the RDC's June 3 meeting, the group received an annual report on TIF revenues and allocations. (You can watch the presentation on CATS here and view the Powerpoint here.) In 2019, TIF revenues are projected to reach about $10.6 million.
How does TIF work? TIF is a way to“capture” certain property taxes to be used in a specific geographic district – taxes that would otherwise be used by entities with the authority to levy taxes in that district. In Bloomington, a portion of the property taxes that would otherwise be collected by taxing units (like the city, county, and public schools) is instead used by the city for projects within the TIF district. In Bloomington, six TIFs are combined into a consolidated district. Click here for details about the city's TIF, including maps of the TIF districts.
How are TIF revenues calculated? The captured tax is only that which applies to the difference between (1) the baseline value of the property when the district was first formed, and (2) the value of the property after new construction or improvements to the property. That difference is the “increment” in “tax increment finance.”
Projects funded by TIF revenues include Switchyard Park, the Trades District, street and sidewalk repair, and redevelopment of the IU Health Hospital site. Future projects might include funding the expansion of the Monroe County Convention Center.
The Indiana General Assembly wrapped up its 2019 budget session in April. We followed several bills of interest to Chamber members. Check out our State Legislative Update page for details about how our local legislators voted on key bills.
The Legislature is not in session, but you can still reach the state legislators who represent Bloomington and Monroe County. Here's their contact information:
If you've ever wondered "How can I influence what happens in this community?" - or even if you haven't - here's one answer: Volunteer for a city advisory group. The Chamber encourages our members to get involved, as a way to give input on local policies that affect our city.
Each month we highlight a few current board/commission vacancies. The June 2019 vacancies include:
Parking Commission: Three seats are posted as vacant on the Bloomington Parking Commission. Among other things, this 9-member group works on developing parking policy that supports the city's comprehensive plan. (What's the comprehensive plan? Find out here.) The Parking Commission's next meeting is a work session on Thursday, June 13. Click here to apply.
Traffic Commission. Keeping with the transit theme, the city's 9-member Traffic Commission also has three vacancies. The group hears traffic-related complaints, makes recommendations on improving traffic conditions, and gives input on enforcing traffic regulations. Its next meeting is Wednesday, June 26. Click here to apply.
Board of Public Safety. This 5-member board, which oversees the police and fire departments, has one vacancy. All positions are appointed by the mayor. Its next meeting is Tuesday, June 18. Click here to apply.
Check out this site for information on other city vacancies and how to apply. After applying, members must be appointed to each board or commission by the Mayor, the Common Council, or another board or commission. And FYI: City residency is required for membership on most of the boards and commissions.