Two Bloomington gateway projects get restart: Miller-Showers Park, pedestrian bridge

Funding for design of two projects that are meant to establish “gateways” to Bloomington got approval from the board of park commissioners at its regular Tuesday meeting.

One of the sites where a gateway is to be constructed is the northern tip of Miller-Showers Park. The other is the SR 45/46 bypass pedestrian bridge, which connects to the Arlington Heights Elementary School.

What the board approved on Tuesday was a $133,925 contract with Rundell Ernstberger & Associates (REA) for the design work on the two projects.

The funding for the work, and the eventual construction, comes from the general obligation bonds that were issued in 2018 by the city of Bloomington and branded as “bicentennial bonds” in connection with the 200th anniversary of the city’s founding.

The total amount of those 2018 bonds was $10 million, split up into three different packages.

Bloomington director of parks and recreation Paula McDevitt told The B Square that there is roughly $1.2 million set aside for the gateway projects. In addition to the $133,925 contract that was approved by the board on Tuesday, REA was already paid $53,364 in 2020 for design work related to the gateway projects, according to Bloomington’s online financial records.

The projects stalled out because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At Tuesday’s meeting, McDevitt put it like this, “And then COVID hit, and everything came to a screeching halt.”

The initial work means that REA won’t be starting from scratch, McDevitt told The B Square. But residents should keep their eye out for calls for public input on the design of the projects in the coming months.

Some of the early conceptual work for the two gateway projects was reported to the board at its Dec. 10, 2019 meeting.

Initial concepts for the Arlington pedestrian bridge included a thematic connection to Bloomington-born songwriter Hoagy Carmichael. But McDevitt told The B Square on Tuesday the bridge is a challenging site, because it is owned by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT). Now the thinking on the bridge project includes some lettering on the bridge that spells out “Bloomington” and some landscaping around the bases of the bridge on either side of the SR 45/46 bypass.

Initial concepts for the Miller-Showers Park gateway include replacement of the Bradford pear trees that are currently growing on the northern tip of the park with varieties that are not an invasive species, like the Bradford pear. The idea is to create a “linear experience” that stretches northward from the sculpture at the northern end of the stormwater retention pools to the tip of the park.

The sculpture at the northern end of the stormwater retention pools is called “Red, Blond, Black, and Olive.” The two statues that make up the artwork have a total of four faces, each face featuring a different major world race. It was created by Jean-Paul Darriau, an Indiana University sculptor and professor.

The sculpture was installed in the park in 1980 during the Frank McCloskey mayoral administration, but not at its current location. The initial location was in the center of the park. In connection with the 2002 construction of the stormwater detention pools that are now the central feature of the park, the sculpture was relocated.

McDevitt described the timeline for completing the gateway projects as “pretty aggressive.” That means the schematic design and bidding process are hoped to be completed in time to start construction in early 2023 and finish the work by the end of 2023.

Photos: A great blue heron coming and going at Miller-Showers Park

A great blue heron lands on a low concrete wall with aquatic vegetation in foreground and field in background. Wings are spread and the bird is facing the camera.
Miller-Showers park (May 22, 2022)
A great blue heron flying away from the camera with wings spread but at angles. Feet and head are barely visible. Background is water.
Miller-Showers Park (May 24, 2024)