“Go Bloomington” branding for promotion of transportation options to launch in early September

The formal launch of Go Bloomington is set for Sept. 6 at 2 p.m. That’s the branding that has been chosen for the city’s effort to promote transportation options that are different from driving alone.

It’s meant to help the city achieve a number of goals, including: reducing carbon emissions; optimizing use of parking capacity; and decreasing traffic congestion.

Some options that will be promoted by Go Bloomington as preferable to driving alone in a car will be: walking, bicycling, riding the public bus, riding shared electric scooters, carpooling, vanpooling and telecommuting.

At their Wednesday meeting, Bloomington city councilmembers were briefed on Go Bloomington by the city’s transportation demand manager, Jeff Jackson. Continue reading ““Go Bloomington” branding for promotion of transportation options to launch in early September”

Bethel AME church now historic district, more Bloomington sites key to Black history could be next

On a unanimous vote by Bloomington’s city council on Wednesday, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church was designated as a historic district.

The 1922 church, which sits on the northeast corner of 7th and Rogers streets on the western edge of downtown, was designed in the classical revival Tudor style by John Nichols.

But the church qualifies for historical designation based on more than just its architectural significance. It also qualifies under criteria that include the cultural and historical significance of a site.

During public comment time, Elizabeth Mitchell told the city council, “This is just the beginning for me—a personal journey to make sure that we don’t forget African American sites. This is just one of them.”

Mitchell introduced herself as a historian for Monroe County on African American experience. She also serves on the city’s historic preservation commission. Continue reading “Bethel AME church now historic district, more Bloomington sites key to Black history could be next”

Monroe County says no to rezone, would have allowed farm to have short-term rental use

In a rare split vote, Monroe County commissioners have denied a request for the rezoning of some property east of the city of Bloomington.

The owner had requested a rezone, in order to use a farmhouse located on 19-acres as an Airbnb—that is, a short-term rental.

The specific proposal from Jason Voorhies was to change the zoning from Estate Residential 2.5 to Agricultural/Rural Reserve, which would have allowed use of the property as a tourist home/cabin.

The zoning change came with a commitment by Voorhies to apply for a historic preservation overlay. According to the Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database (SHAARD), the existing farmhouse and associated barn structures are listed as “contributing.” That’s a designation that means the property met the basic requirement of being pre-1970, but that it is not historic enough to stand on its own as “outstanding” or “notable.”

Part of the case Voorhies tried to make to commissioners was that the income from the property’s use as a short-term rental would help him to rehabilitate and maintain the farmhouse and two barns.

Wednesday’s vote by the three commissioners was not unanimous. Lee Jones voted yes while Penny Githens and Julie Thomas voted no. But as the appointee from the board of county commissioners to the plan commissioner, Thomas had voted for the rezone at that group’s June 21 meeting.

The plan commission’s recommendation was in support by just a 5–4 margin. Joining Thomas on that vote were: Jerry Pittsford, Dee Owens, Amy Thompson, and Bernard Guerrettaz. Voting against the recommendation on the plan commission were Trohn Enright-Randolph, Geoff McKim, Jim Stainbrook, and Margaret Clements.

As Thomas put it last week, when commissioners first heard the request, “I did vote yes, on the original petition, but I am nothing if not protean and willing to change my mind based on facts and data presented to me.” Continue reading “Monroe County says no to rezone, would have allowed farm to have short-term rental use”

Project to rehab old Showers kiln building gets re-fired with Bloomington RDC approval

An adaptive reuse project for the old Showers Company furniture factory kiln, which sits in the Trades District north of city hall, got a formal re-start on Monday.

The re-firing of the project came at the regular meeting of Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC), which shifted some dates for the purchase agreement of the building. A group called The Kiln Collective has agreed to buy the building in a $50,000 deal.

According to Don Weiler of Bailey & Weiler Design/Build, who’s the builder on the project, the rehab of the building could start next year. The kiln sits to the north of The Mill, which is a coworking space, launched in late 2018 in the former Showers Company’s dimension mill.

The kiln is just south of 11th Street and the Upland Brewing Company.

Two and a half years ago, in early 2020, the transfer of ownership had been essentially a done deal, complete with a ceremonial handover of the keys.  But a couple of months after the ceremony the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the project was put on hold.

As Bloomington’s director for economic and sustainable development Alex Crowley put it, “We put it on ice for a while.” Crowley added, “Functionally, what we’re trying to accomplish today is just clean up the dates, get this thing back in motion.” Continue reading “Project to rehab old Showers kiln building gets re-fired with Bloomington RDC approval”

Showers building purchase update: Bloomington RDC OKs $68K in due diligence contracts

The city of Bloomington’s hoped-for purchase of the western portion of the Showers building, where city hall is located, took an incremental step forward on Monday.

In connection with due diligence work in advance of the $9.25-million purchase from CFC Properties,  Bloomington’s RDC has approved three contracts totaling $67,800. The unanimous approvals came at the RDC’s regular meeting on Monday.

Approved at Monday’s meeting were: a contract with BCA Environmental for environmental analysis ($2,800); a contract with Tabor/Bruce Architecture & Design for investigation of the building’s mechanical systems ($15,000); and a contract with Springpoint Architects for a public safety evaluation ($50,000). Continue reading “Showers building purchase update: Bloomington RDC OKs $68K in due diligence contracts”

Column: Check out the Bloomington Jazz Orchestra!

On Friday evening, the Bloomington Jazz Orchestra delivered an hour’s worth of music from the edge of the Monroe County Public Library’s parking lot in downtown Bloomington.

Bloomington Jazz Orchestra (Aug. 12, 2022)

I counted more than 50 people in the crowd. Many had brought lawn chairs because they’d seen the advertising for the event, while some had just stumbled across the free concert like I had.

If the parking lot had a roof, the 19-piece ensemble would have blown it off the place. Some people got out of their seats to dance.

I don’t know anything about music, especially not jazz music, but I can tell when musicians are good and when they’re not, and BJO is really good.

If you see BJO on a future event listing, mark your calendar to go.

The orchestra is led by Janis Stockhouse, who retired as Bloomington High School North’s band director in spring of 2019.

Continue reading “Column: Check out the Bloomington Jazz Orchestra!”

Column: Quorum issue for Bloomington city council highlights need for objective study of procedures

Attendance at Bloomington city council committee-of-the-whole meetings, chronological from left to right.
Attendance at Bloomington city council work sessions, chronological from left to right.
Percentage of votes at council meetings (regular and special sessions, not including committee-of-the-whole meetings) for which councilmembers were present. For this chart, abstentions are counted as present for the vote.

This past Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council failed to achieve a quorum for its committee-of-the-whole meeting.

For the nine-member council, a quorum is five. But only four councilmembers showed up: Susan Sandberg, Jim Sims, Dave Rollo, and Ron Smith.

In practical terms, the lack of a quorum just meant that the four councilmembers could not take an advisory vote on the one agenda item, which was the historic designation of the Bethel AME church.

The four councilmembers still heard the presentation from the city’s historic preservation program manager, and comments from the public.

The lack of quorum did not mean the church’s historic designation was delayed. That item will still appear on the city council’s Wednesday, Aug. 17 agenda, but without a committee recommendation.

But as Wednesday’s gathering was wrapping up, councilmember Jim Sims remarked on the lack of quorum.

He started by noting who else was in the room: “I probably shouldn’t say anything, but I just got to say, we’ve got people from the public that have come here to share their voices, staff that is here to make a presentation. We’ve got a couple of historic preservation commissioners here.”

Sims added: “I personally think it’s a bit of a disservice that we don’t have at least five people here on this council as a quorum to conduct proper business.”

Sims was right to say something. But I think it’s time for the city council to do something. Continue reading “Column: Quorum issue for Bloomington city council highlights need for objective study of procedures”

Bloomington police update: 23-year-old arrested in connection with July 27 killing

In a Thursday news release, Bloomington police reported that a 23-year-old man, described as a “transient,” has been arrested in connection with the July 27 shooting death of a Kinser Flats resident on the city’s north side.

The news release says that Kendrick Q. Webb was arrested in Melrose Park, Illinois, which is just west of Chicago, but still in Cook County.

Webb has been charged with murder and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

It was Bloomington police detectives working with members of the United States Marshals Service who took Webb into custody without incident on Aug. 10 around 2:30 p.m., the news release says.

Webb was then taken to the Cook County jail, where he waits for transport to Monroe County.

According to the news release, detectives used “a variety of investigative techniques” to determine that Webb had fled to the Chicago area. Continue reading “Bloomington police update: 23-year-old arrested in connection with July 27 killing”

Bloomington’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church set to get historic district OK from city council

Bloomington’s Bethel AME church, which sits on the northeast corner of 7th and Rogers streets on the western edge of downtown, is set to receive historic designation from the city council at its meeting next Wednesday (Aug. 17).

The parsonage, which sits to the north of the church, will also receive a vote on its historic designation.

This Wednesday, four members of the city council got a preview of the agenda item at a scheduled committee-of-the-whole meeting. The meeting turned out to be just a gathering, not an official meeting, because a quorum of five was not achieved. Continue reading “Bloomington’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church set to get historic district OK from city council”

Convention center notebook: Monroe County commissioners react to Bloomington pitch by putting appraisal of property on agenda

“I think it only makes sense to go into negotiations armed with knowledge.”

That was county commissioner Julie Thomas’s commentary on Wednesday morning about the possibility of getting an appraisal of county-owned real estate in downtown Bloomington.

Her comment came at the end of Wednesday’s work session, which followed the regular meeting of the three commissioners. The approval of a contract for the appraisal of county real estate in downtown Bloomington will likely appear on next Wednesday’s (Aug. 17) regular meeting agenda.

Possibly getting the county’s property appraised comes as a reaction to a proposal from the city of Bloomington, to transfer the real estate connected with the convention center to the city. That means the existing building, as well as other property the county has acquired as part of a planned center expansion. Continue reading “Convention center notebook: Monroe County commissioners react to Bloomington pitch by putting appraisal of property on agenda”