One area of importance for my job is simply listening. An issue that has come up is the safety of the Johnson Creamery smokestack. It is currently a hazard that has the B-line fenced off in that area. Engineers insist that the current height of 140 feet will need to be reduced to 60 feet. My first thought is that a visually dated non-functioning structure serves little use besides being a landmark of our heritage. A landmark that will include continued maintenance. My sense of practicality failed to see the purpose.
However, having talked with a string of community stakeholders, I underestimated the importance of the smokestack to the skyline of Bloomington. My appreciation and understanding have grown based on a compelling case. It is essential to recognize landmarks that are significant to community members. This complex once housed employees in nearby neighborhoods. To many, the larger value is that the Creamery represents an iconic complex representative of a distinct coal-fired industrial architecture.
My interest in this stems from having worked at the Creamery Building, the once long-term home of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. The aesthetics of the building remain a drab red brick found in many desolate small-town centers. The interior of this facility is dated, musty, with little warmth or character beyond the mural dedicated to the creamery era. The opportunity cost of requiring any more funds than necessary on this property to me seemed ill-advised. Well, maybe I was wrong. The Power of listening in full effect.
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