Work will start later this year on a redesigned 4th St. garage, following approval of required variances by the Bloomington Board of Zoning Appeals. It will be built on the existing footprint with 7 stories, 537 spaces and ground floor commercial space. The estimated completion date is August 2021.
The city also has dropped its appeal in the eminent domain lawsuit it filed to take the JuanSells.com building at the south end of the block.
The variances granted by the BZA at its March 19 meeting included allowing the parking structure’s entrance driveway to be wider than would ordinarily be allowed under city code, and allowing the driveway to be closer to Walnut Street than the code allows.
The downtown garage was closed in late 2018 because of structural flaws. It was subsequently demolished last year.
In a nearly unanimous vote on March 9, the Bloomington Plan Commission has approved a redesigned 4th St. parking structure. It will be built on the existing footprint with 7 stories and 537 spaces. The estimated completion date is August 2021.
Eighteen people spoke during public commentary. Of those, 11 strongly supported the project, including A John Rose, chair of the Chamber Advocacy Council; Ron Walker, immediate past chair of the Chamber board and vice president of operations for CFC Properties; Jim Murphy, president of CFC Properties who also serves on the Chamber Advocacy Council; and Mary Morgan, the Chamber's Director of Advocacy & Public Policy.
The project, which includes a public art component, does not require additional city council approval. Click here to read details of the project from the Plan Commission packet.
Watch the Plan Commission deliberations on CATS here. Or read the B Square Beacon report: "Bloomington plan commission OKs 4th Street replacement parking garage, target completion date now August 2021."
An overview of the proposed Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan – including several recommendations to lower the use of single-occupancy vehicles – was presented to Bloomington City Council at their March 4, 2020 meeting.
Justin Schor of Wells + Associates, the transportation consulting firm hired by the city, made the presentation. Click here to view his slidedeck, or watch it on CATS here. The full report will be available on the city's TDM website.
Short-term recommendations include providing a carpool matching service, a "guaranteed ride home" service, education and marketing about transportation options, and an increase in the cost of parking by 50% or more.
To implement and manage the city's TDM program, Schor recommended 2.5 employees, including a TDM director, manager and a part-time coordinator. The program's budget is estimated at nearly $500,000 annually. The council would need to vote to approve the program and identify revenues to support it.
At their quarterly meeting on Jan. 14, Arts Forward Bloomington held a forum focused on transportation issues that affect local arts organizations.
The group heard from Michael Shermis, the City of Bloomington's special projects coordinator, about current transportation-related activities, including a grant from ADA Indiana used to train people who are elderly or with disabilities how to use Uber.
Beth Rosenbarger, the city's planning services manager, discussed transportation issues in the context of the city's comprehensive plan and transportation plan.
The group discussed what kind of incentives might be offered by local arts organizations to encourage patrons to use alternative forms of transportation when coming to events, rather than driving a car. Ideas included offering free concessions for people who walk, bike or take the bus. The possibility of changing three parking spaces in front of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater into a drop-off/pick-up zone was also discussed.
In general, Arts Forward Bloomington wants to make sure the voice of the arts community is heard on a range of issues affecting the health of that sector.
Arts Forward Bloomington will hold its next forum in April, focusing on space needs for arts organizations. The group's steering committee includes Danielle McClelland, former director of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater; Gabe Gloden, Managing Director of Cardinal Stage; Ken Buzzard, President of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra; Susan Swaney, Artistic Director of Voces Novae and Founder of Sing for Joy! Senior Choir; and Kay Olges, Board President for Windfall Dancers.
Arts Forward Bloomington is hosting a quarterly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 14 that focuses on issues related to transportation and the arts.
Topics will include the status of local parking and transportation plans, as well as ways that arts organizations and local government can partner to increase accessibility to those with transportation needs. The discussion also will address how to incentivize patrons to consider alternate forms of transportation.
The meeting is free and open to the public. It begins at 7 p.m. at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood. Click here for more information on the AFB Facebook page.
On the third Thursday of each month, Downtown Bloomington Inc. hosts a breakfast meeting that's open to the public. This month, the event drew about two dozen people who gathered at the Bloomington Cooking School.
These meetings primarily consist of updates from everyone who attends. Here's a sampling from the Sept. 19 session (* = Chamber member):
Monroe County* is replacing its downtown canopy of lights on the square with roughly 4,000 LED bulbs. Cassady Electrical Contractors* will be hanging the new strands during the third week of October. The change is estimated to cut electricity costs from $70/day to $15/day.
Downtown employers will be receiving an online survey soon to distribute to their employees as part of the City of Bloomington* Transportation Demand Management (TDM) initiative. The survey will gather information on how employees get to work, parking needs, and incentives they might use for taking alternative transportation, such as public transit.
Malcolm Abrams, publisher of Bloom Magazine* reported that Nov. 1 is the deadline to submit nominations for the monthly magazine's Community Awards, recognizing local business, charity, the arts and diversity. The awards will be presented at a gala in December.
The city's new Switchyard Park will be opening on Nov. 1. The new clubhouse at the Cascades Golf Course will be opening soon as well. It will include rentable space that's available year-round, according to Mary Catherine Carmichael, the city's director of public engagement. She quipped that the previous structure had been "rode hard and put away wet."
Adam Wason, the city's director of public works, reported that "surgical" demolition of the 4th St. garage will begin soon. The next hearing of the eminent domain lawsuit against the city is scheduled for Oct. 7. The city hopes to reach a settlement with Juan Carlos Carrasquel, Wason said. Site plans for the new 4th St. garage won't be reviewed by the Plan Commission until the situation is resolved.
CFC Properties* has launched a new website for Fountain Square. Two additional event spaces are now available for the public. CFC also is looking for a new tenant in the Wicks Building on the square at 116 W. 6th St.
The Bloomington Cooking School* is offering corporate teambuilding sessions for 8-20 people. Groups can come in a prepare a meal together – then eat it! – while getting to know each other and strengthening their business relationships.
The city's tree inventory has been released and "the general impression is not good," according to Julie Roberts, gallery director for the Ivy Tech Waldron Arts Center*, who also serves as president of the city's Utilities Service Board. She urged everyone to be observant of the condition of Bloomington's trees. (Read a report about the tree inventory here.)
The DBI's next breakfast meeting is on Thursday, Oct. 17. Sign up for the group's e-newsletter here.
The site plan for the city's new 4th Street parking structure will be considered by the Bloomington Plan Commission at its July 8th meeting. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at city hall, 401 N. Morton, and will include a public hearing on the project. [UPDATE: Commissioners pushed back action on this project until their Aug. 12 meeting. Watch the July 8 meeting on CATS.]
Click here for the 4th St. garage section of the Plan Commission packet.
Citing its importance to the downtown business community, the Chamber has supported this project, which replaces an aging structure on the same site. Additionally, the garage will provide parking for an expanded Monroe County Convention Center, which the Chamber also supports.
According to information provided to the Plan Commission, the new 4th St. garage will be six stories high (75 feet, 8 inches tall at its highest) with 510 parking spaces, 40 indoor bicycle spaces and 10 bike lockers. It also calls for 11,189 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, including office space for city staff, and public restrooms.
Entrances will be from both 3rd and 4th streets. This will require variances from the city's Board of Zoning Appeals. That's because current zoning doesn't allow for vehicle entrances onto 3rd Street, and the proposed width of the 4th Street entrance exceeds the allowable maximum per city code.
The design also assumes that the city will acquire the parcel at the southeast corner of the site, currently owned by Juan Carlos Carrasquel of JuanSells.com Realty Co. While negotiating with Carrasquel, the city has also filed a Complaint for Condemnation with the Monroe County Circuit Court, beginning the process to buy the land through eminent domain. A memo to the Plan Commission states that the city's legal department "has advised that moving forward with a conditional approval is valid."
Click here for additional background on this project.
Other items on the July 8th Plan Commission agenda include final plan approval for the Ridge Group Inc.'s 130 apartment units, part of the Sudbury planned unit development (PUD) on West Ezekiel Drive, and adoption of the city's proposed Transportation Plan.
Click here to download the full meeting packet.
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.
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.