Bloomington OKs $410K deal with Chicago firm for master planning of old hospital site

Starting sometime in early May, Bloomington residents will probably start seeing social media efforts related to the master planning of the old hospital site on 2nd Street. The 24-acre site will be handed over to the city in late 2021 by Indiana University Health in a $6.5 million real estate deal.

Those social media efforts will be a part of the work that the Chicago firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) will be doing, after Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) approved a $410,000 master planning agreement at its regular meeting on Monday night.

The roughly $7 million for the real estate and the master planning is part of a $10-million RDC project.

By year’s end, SOM is supposed to provide a “final master plan” for the site which will include 3D illustrations, concept level gross floor area ratios, development blocks, internal circulation concepts, transit connections, pedestrian and bicycle corridors, recommendations on parking, and infrastructure analyses for roadway, utility and stormwater infrastructure, among other elements.

SOM was selected in a process that began with issuance of a request for information (RFI) by the RDC on Nov. 18, 2019, which yielded 23 respondents, Bloomington’s city controller, Jeff Underwood, told RDC members on Monday.

Underwood sketched out the selection process, which included a narrowing of the respondents to 10, onsite interviews with all 10 of those, and a further winnowing down to four finalists.

On Monday night, redevelopment commissioner Eric Sandweiss, who’s a history professor at Indiana University, asked about two topics: the public engagement that SOM would do; and the way that SOM would incorporate sustainable design into the project.

Sandweiss asked Underwood if he had a sense that the SOM team would have its ears open to input from residential and business neighbors to the site. Underwood responded by saying a lot of time was spent during the interview process on the public engagement component. The city’s director of public engagement, Mary Catherine Carmichael, attended all the interviews, Underwood said.

Underwood told Sandweiss that the interviewing committee had made clear that the successful firm would need to have a “multifaceted” public outreach program and the committee was satisfied that SOM had such a program. The committee was particularly impressed by how clear SOM was about the roles that some local Bloomington firms would play in the process.

Underwood pointed to Mary Krupinski, of Kirkwood Design Studio, as the person who would be providing local “boots on the ground” for SOM, to ensure that a familiar face—someone who lives and works in Bloomington—would be a part of the process.

Sandweiss observed that SOM has a reputation as a solid corporate architect. He asked Underwood: “Was there a sense on the committee’s part that these people get that designing a big piece of the city in 2020 is not quite the same thing as it would have been in [SOM’s] heyday in the 1950s and 60s?”

Underwood said he thought SOM answered that question well. SOM has members on their team who would work just on the sustainable aspect of the project. Underwood added that the value that Bloomington’s community puts on sustainability would be conveyed to SOM during its public engagement process.

At its previous meeting, the RDC had approved an increase in the overall project from about $6.8 million to $10 million, to cover the cost of the master planner and possible infrastructure improvements. The placeholder amount for master planning was $500,000, which the city’s head of economic and sustainable development, Alex Crowley, said at the time would be more than enough to cover the master planning contract. The $410,000 for SOM’s contract came in at $90,000 under that.

The roughly $3 million difference in line totals for the project and the $10 million figure is supposed be used for possible infrastructure improvements to the site. The source of the funds used by the RDC for this and other projects is tax increment (TIF) revenue.

Indiana University Health is supposed to turn over the site to Bloomington with everything demolished except for the parking garage and possibly the Kohr Administration Building.

The hospital parking garage was the subject of some discussion going on at the county courthouse on Monday night at the same time as the RDC meeting. At the courthouse, a group of county and city officials were meeting to discuss an interlocal agreement about the formation of a capital improvement board to govern the construction of the convention center expansion.

Some text proposed by Bloomington city councilmember Matt Flaherty, as an addition to the CIB interlocal agreement, included a mention of the hospital parking garage:

These demand-reduction measures may include, but are not limited to:
(a) fare-free shuttle service to and from the Indianapolis airport, as well as to and from local parking facilities; and
(b) management as a common pool of any structured parking in the Project Hotel, the 4th St. parking garage, and the 2nd St. IU Health parking garage (to be transferred to the City in 2021), all of which shall be available to Convention Center attendees.

The meeting among city and county officials left several open questions, including the inclusion of Flaherty’s proposed amendment to the interlocal agreement.

Flaherty also serves on the hospital site technical review committee (TRC), to which Underwood referred at Monday’s RDC meeting.

The hospital site technical review committee (TRC) includes city staff as well as external members.

Among the city staff on the TRC are Mick Renneisen (deputy mayor), Mary Catherine Carmichael (director of public engagement), Scott Robinson (assistant director of planning and transportation), Jeff Underwood (controller), Alex Crowley (director of economic and sustainable development), Philippa Guthrie (corporation counsel), and Kelly Boatman (project manager).

External TRC members include: Don Griffin (president of redevelopment commission), Kate Rosenbarger (city council), Matt Flaherty (city council), Lee Carmichael (hospital reuse committee), Cindy Kinnarney (hospital reuse committee), Mary Ann Valetta (IU Heath) and Browning Group members.