Bloomington’s Trades District technology center takes small step forward

At its Monday meeting, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) gave a green light to the next incremental step in the construction of a technology center north of Bloomington’s city hall building, in the Trades District.

The Trades District is a certified technology park.

What the RDC approved was a revision to the project review form for a roughly $5.5-million technology center.

The center is expected to break ground in mid-2022 and be open in early- to mid-2024, according to Bloomington director of economic and sustainable development Alex Crowley.

The timing depends in part on some back-and-forth the city is having with the federal Economic Development administration (EDA), in connection with a $3.5 million grant awarded by the EDA for the center, Crowley wrote in a late-December email to The B Square.

Wednesday’s project form revision spells out $500,000 as the amount planned for the design services for the project. The firm that has done the initial conceptual and preliminary designs is Axis Architecture + Interiors.

The half-million-dollar figure is a quarter of the $2 million total listed in the project review form.

Bloomington’s director of economic and sustainable development Alex Crowley told the RDC that figure did not include costs to be covered by a $3.5 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration.

After Crowley’s description, the contrast drew a remark from redevelopment commissioner David Walter—to the effect that 25 percent would not have been acceptable as a fraction for design services. Walter said, “So really in reality, we’re at $5 million, more or less, of which design services is now about 10 percent.”

Walter added, “And that sounds a lot better than when I looked at the two numbers, saying 25 percent of our money is going to design services. I don’t think so!”

The RDC uses its approval of project review forms, and subsequent revisions to them, to check each incremental step in the use of tax increment finance (TIF) revenues, which it oversees for the city.

Crowley clarified during Monday’s meeting that the RDC’s approval of the revision of the project review form, specifying $500,000 as the amount anticipated for design services,  does not authorize that expenditure.

Crowley said, “We do expect in the next couple of weeks to be working out an agreement with the firm that would be doing this work, finalize the dollar amount, and come back to you with an agreement.” He continued, “So you’re not approving the agreement—that will happen at the next [RDC] meeting.”

Crowley added, “What you are doing is getting information, as we get it, about how some of these costs may turn out in that process.”

The technology center is a joint effort of the city of Bloomington’s department of economic and sustainable development and the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC).

The technology center building is planned to be operated by a non-profit entity, which would coordinate programming and services for local tech companies.

Jen Pearl, who’s executive director of the BEDC, has said previously that the target tenants for the future technology center building are technology companies that are beyond the startup phase. Services and space would be available for growing and mature firms. The kinds of services that would be provided would include: connections to local and regional tech companies.