Telecom gear gone from Johnson’s Creamery smokestack, partial demolition to come next week

The actual “H” in the word “Johnson’s”—which is spelled out in the brick on the Johnson’s Creamery historic smokestack, off 7th Street in downtown Bloomington—is now visible.

Until Monday, the letter had been obscured by some AT&T telecommunications equipment that was installed at the top of the smokestack.  Two bars of the telecom gear had been colored white, as a stand-in for the “H” so that the name of the historic creamery was still legible.

On Monday morning, a crew from an AT&T contractor removed the telecommunications equipment from the top of the smokestack.

AT&T had been ordered to remove the equipment by Bloomington’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department.

The removal of the gear sets the stage for the partial demolition of the smokestack, which has been ordered by Bloomington’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department, because an engineering study determined that the smokestack is structurally unsound.

The smokestack, with its unsafe lean, is supposed to be knocked down from 140 feet to 60 feet.

The Johnson’s Creamery building, which is now its own local historic district, is owned by Peerless Development.

Responding to an emailed question from The B Square, Peerless founder Michael Cordaro indicated on Monday that his contractors should be on site next week to begin the demolition and restoration work on the smokestack. He estimated the time for that work at four to six weeks.

Peerless also has a request pending in front of the city council for the vacation of an east-west alley on the site. The alley vacation is a hurdle that has to be cleared in order for Peerless to  build a 51-unit apartment complex north of the old creamery building, right next to the B-Line Trail, off 7th Street.

Part of the proposed building would sit in what is currently public right-of-way. Bloomington’s plan commission approved the site plan for the new development in October 2021, but made the approval contingent on getting approval for the alley vacation from the city council.

The most recent proposal from Peerless is to effectively “move” the alley a bit southward. That would entail vacating the current location and re-platting the parcel to include a new dedicated right-of-way.

The Bloomington plan commission has a meeting scheduled for Aug. 15, but the re-platting won’t appear on that agenda, according to Cordaro.

He wrote to The B Square, “We are working with members of the plan commission to put together a complete package, and then create a subdivision plat that could ultimately be approved by council.”