Bloomington City Council Approves $3 Million for Tech Center: Tech Center, Trades District to serve as regional innovation hub
On Wednesday, April 12, the Bloomington City Council voted to appropriate $3 million towards funding construction of a new technology center in the Trades District. This allocation draws from the Bloomington Community Revitalization and Enhancement District (CRED) funds. Additional funding for the project comprises $3.5 million from the United States Economic Development Administration (US EDA) and nearly $2 million from the Bloomington Redevelopment Commission (RDC). Construction is expected to begin this fall and be complete by early 2025.
“This vote empowers us to move forward quickly on the construction of the Tech Center,” said John Fernandez, Senior Vice President of Innovation & Strategic Partnerships at The Mill. “It’s important to understand that we’re not just building office space with these funds. We’re catalyzing a shift in our economy. What we’re really building is a major innovation hub for our region, at the heart of the 84-mile corridor that runs from Crane to Indianapolis. Bloomington is perfectly positioned to become a vibrant center for the emerging tech-focused economy.”
The Council voted 8-0-1 in favor of funding, including one abstention. The tech center will be a 22,000 square-foot Class A office building located at the southwest corner of Maker Way and Madison Street, in the 12-acre Trades District, a portion of the Certified Technology Park. StudioAXIS led a design team of local stakeholders to create the architectural and construction plans. The plans are designed to meet minimum Silver LEED certification standards and include collaboration and office spaces and a public plaza.
“The City has long envisioned the Trades District as a place of innovation, business attraction, and job-creation,” said Mayor John Hamilton. “Our previous investments, including renovating The Mill, collaborating on the B-Line Heights affordable housing development, preparing the infrastructure, and building the Trades District Garage, laid the groundwork for the surge in private investment and development we’re now seeing. The success of The Mill, the renovations of the Kiln and the Showers Administration building, and now the creation of the Tech Center are forming a nexus of innovation. It’s an exciting time. And this transformation in the landscape mirrors the transformation in our economy that we’re working toward.”
Public-private partnerships with Indiana University and other partners along the 84-mile innovation corridor will be central to the success of that transformation, Fernandez noted. Future developments around the Tech Center are expected to also build out entertainment and housing options that contribute to a dynamic community experience. “Innovators, founders, and talent are attracted to places that provide not just great startup and business resources, but also a quality of life and local culture that feed creativity,” he said. “And that’s where Bloomington shines.”
The total project cost is estimated at $8.5 million. City staff on behalf of the RDC and the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) applied for and received the $3.5 million US EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance Grant in 2021, with the RDC committing a grant match of $2 million. Wednesday’s vote to allocate CRED funds filled a $3 million funding gap that arose from rising construction costs after the award of the grant. A feasibility study conducted by IU’s Public Policy Institute in 2020 estimated that the $8.5 million project will have a $218 million economic impact over ten years.
“We’re grateful to the City Council for understanding the importance of this project,” said Pat East, the Executive Director of The Mill. “The Tech Center doesn’t just benefit techies. Innovation-driven companies create a wide range of jobs and typically pay much higher wages, up to 38% more for a person with a bachelor’s degree. So, for example, someone who makes our average household income today of $54,096 would make $74,652 in a new economy job. That’s how we’re going to close the wage gap here in Bloomington, and that’s going to bring more money to feed our creative and cultural scene, too.”
In January 2023, the RDC signed an innovation partnership agreement (available here: https://bloomington.in.gov/news/2023/01/24/5473) authorizing The Mill to manage the development and marketing of the Trades District. Fernandez, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development and the mayor of Bloomington from 1995-2003, was hired to lead the work in February.
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