Bloomington set to pay $1.9 million for NE part of parking lot, planned for convention center expansion

In 2019, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) paid $4,995,000 for most of the downtown block that formerly housed the Bunger & Robertson law firm.

It was a move that put a significant sum behind the city’s preferred site for the planned expansion of the Monroe Convention Center. But it came with at least some amount of controversy for what was supposed to be a city-county collaboration.

For some of the actors involved in convention center planning at the time, it had been an open question: Should the expansion be located north or south of the existing convention center at 3rd Street and College Avenue? The city’s purchase appeared to be an attempt to settle that question.

The price tag was just under the $5-million statutory threshold that would have required the city council’s approval. And the deal still did not put the whole block under the city’s control.

The city was still negotiating with a different property owner for the remaining 0.4 acres, which consists of about 45 surface parking spaces.

Now, Bloomington’s RDC is set to buy the remaining part of the block.

On the RDC’s Monday meeting agenda is a purchase agreement for $1.9 million to buy the parcel located at 216 S. College Ave.

To buy the property, city has pursued protracted negotiations with the owners of the property, Thomas Sicks and Nancy Held.

Since the 2019 purchase of the Bunger & Robertson property, the city has been leasing the northeast corner of the parking lot from Sicks and Held. As a part of the deal, the city has also been paying the property taxes on the parcel.

For the last year and a half, the city has used a portion of the building for its downtown fire station, after the 4th Street station was damaged in the June 2021 flooding.

Under the terms of the lease agreement, the RDC pays Sicks and Held a total of $3,500 a month, for an annual total of $42,000. In the city’s online financial system, the payments are recorded as separate monthly payments to each of them for $1,750.

Since 2019 through March 3, 2023, the city has paid them $127,000 to lease the parking lot space.

The deal with Sicks and Held also says that the city will pay the property taxes for the parcel. The city’s online financial system shows at least $53,000 in property taxes paid since 2020. Given some gaps in dates, it’s not clear that is exhaustive of the payments made.

Under state law, a redevelopment commission can pay more than the average of two fair market appraisals for property. That’s one way that an RDC is different from other governmental units.

The city’s online financial records show that at least one recent appraisal was obtained for the parking lot parcel at 216 S. College.

On Dec. 23, 2022, the city paid $2,500 to Gilbert S Mordoh & Co. for an appraisal of the property.

In the city’s online financial system, The B Square was not able to identify other payments made for recent appraisals of the property at 216 S. College.

In January, Bloomington’s city council overrode a mayoral veto of its resolution expressing support for a capital improvement board (CIB) as the governance structure for a convention center expansion.  In the two months since then, there’s been little public sign of any progress on the convention center expansion project.

The Bloomington RDC meeting starts at 5 p.m. in city hall.

8 thoughts on “Bloomington set to pay $1.9 million for NE part of parking lot, planned for convention center expansion

  1. Once again the city decides to spend over a million dollars on a plan that has no discussion and no call for responses of the tax payers money. The spending of Mayor Hamilton incredible search for desire to spend money that doesn’t belong to him but belong to the taxpayers without public discussion or no previous notice until the last minute this is irresponsible and thoughtless behavior from an elected official. Before we spend one cent more of the mayors whimsical desire to spend the tax payers money we should close the books an go back and see what we have spent already and what we have gotten for it. This is outrageous and wreckless government and we should all require some accountability. If it wasn’t for B square we would have not known about it.

    Charlotte Zietlow

    1. This was made public several years ago. It is why Bunger Robertson moved, because of the city purchase.

      1. In fact, I remember discussing how weird it was that several parking spaces had a different owner than the rest of the property. Nothing was secret. It happened with discussions. Maybe people just don’t remember

  2. Yes, we do remember. What some didn’t anticipate, but should have, is that Hamilton would deal with one purchase at a time so as to make his total property acquisition in two parts, each under the $5M required for Council approval. As usual, he saw no need to involve those pesky elected officials in City decisions. And, for a bonus, he could continue to out-maneuver what he views as annoying County officials on Convention Center control.

    1. Yes it was known at the time that the parking spaces property would be purchased at a later date. It was never a secret.

  3. Has Hamilton ever seen a tax dollar that he hasn’t spent??? I feel sorry for the next mayor when he/she realizes that the well is dry…

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