Getting unanimous approval from Bloomington’s city council on Wednesday was the tweaked zoning for a project by Curry Urban Properties that will build 233 apartments with 341 bedrooms on the 3.2-acre empty lot at the northwest corner of Pete Ellis Drive and Longview Avenue.
Compared to the planned unit development (PUD) zoning that the city council previously approved in February of 2020, the bedroom count for the project barely changed—from 344 to 341 bedrooms.
It’s the mix of unit sizes that Curry wanted to alter. In addition to the studios, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom units previously proposed, Curry wanted to add up to 35 3-bedroom units.
The reason for the change in the unit-size mix was described at the plan commission’s June meeting by Tom Jasin, who is development manager with Scannell Properties.
Jasin told planning commissioners that the single-family housing market has continually been tightening, which is among many trends that support the need for larger units.
Also, since the previous PUD zoning was approved, the estimated construction costs for the project have increased by 25-to-30 percent, Jasin said. The inclusion of 3-bedroom apartments makes for a more efficient building, and will help partially offset added costs, Jasin said.
Besides the unit mix, the other significant change approved by the city council was a request to be released from a condition that a “green wall” be constructed as a facade on the south side of the building, to help mask the parking garage from view.
Under a proposed new design, the 254-space parking garage is wrapped by apartments—it’s not visible from either the north or south side of the building.
The project includes an affordable housing component that restricts income levels for some units to tenants who earn no more than the area median income (AMI) or 20 percent more than AMI.
The breakdown is: 10 percent of the units have to be rented to tenants earning up to 100 percent of (AMI); 5 percent of the units have to be rented to tenants earning no more than 120 percent of AMI.
The base rent for the units set aside for the income-restricted units can’t be more than 25 percent of the AMI at the time of the lease. The 2021 AMI for the Bloomington metro area, according to HUD, was $76,300.
Just as it did at the plan commission’s meeting in June, an issue that drew some discussion at Wednesday’s city council meeting involves traffic and the potential need for a traffic signal at the intersection of Pete Ellis Drive and Longview Avenue. It’s currently a four-way stop.
A condition on the zoning approved by the city council requires that if a traffic study indicates a signal is warranted, then the developer is responsible for installing it.
On Wednesday, councilmember Ron Smith said he thinks a traffic signal will be needed after Curry builds the project—especially because by then the new IU Health hospital will be open. “I live in that area. And I can just absolutely predict that it’s going to need a traffic light.” Smith added, “I would advise the city and the developer to be thinking about how to come to some agreement on that. It’s going to be very busy.”
At June’s plan commission meeting city engineer Andrew Cibor said that if the traffic study were to find a signal is needed, due to added traffic generated by the project, and if the developer did not have to pay for and manage the installation of a signal, “it would not be fair to the city, or the taxpayers.”
Councilmember Matt Flaherty expressed some concern about the idea that Curry would be made solely responsible for the traffic for an entire area, simply because they had tipped the traffic volume over a certain threshold.
The one change to the zoning made by the city council on Wednesday was to add a reasonable condition related to the roof. The condition on the roof was proposed by Flaherty. It requires Curry to commit to covering at least 70 percent of the total roof surface with “cool” or vegetative material as described in the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO).
It replaced a previous reasonable condition that had wording that was tied to the parking structure.
At Wednesday’s meeting, councilmember Dave Rollo reprised a theme he raised during last week’s hearing on the budget of the planning and transportation department: He’d like the city to consider hiring a staff architect.
At last week’s departmental budget hearing, Rollo said, “I think we’ve got an ugly building epidemic in our country. And I don’t think that Bloomington is immune to this. It seems to me with rare exception, I’m disappointed by what I’m seeing built.”
On Wednesday, Rollo said that the changes to the proposal made it difficult to determine what the final product would look like. He said, “I think that what buildings like this illustrate to me is the need for a city architect to review the aesthetics of it.” Rollo added, “It’s very difficult to determine, in this review process—there’s so many moving parts—exactly what the final product will be.”