As soon as this year’s construction season, the old Monroe Oil building, just south of the Seminary Square Kroger where The B-Line Trail crosses 1st Street, could see work start, to make it into a restaurant and banquet facility.
That’s the timing that owner Rudy Fields told The B Square he is hoping for.
Fields said he wants the adaptive reuse of the building to become a part of the fabric of Bloomington, the same way Nick’s on Kirkwood Avenue is. He said, “I want my grandkids walking down that trail and going, ‘Yeah, Pop did that.’”
Fields was speaking immediately following Monday’s regular meeting of Bloomington’s nine-member plan commission, which granted unanimous approval of the project’s site plan. The idea is for the not-yet-identified tenant to create a 14,170 square foot restaurant and meeting, banquet or event facility.
The plan commission’s vote was 8–0, because commission president Brad Wisler was not able to attend the meeting. No additional approval is required by the city council, because no change was requested from the existing mixed-use downtown zoning designation, with a downtown gateway overlay.
One variance will still need to be granted by the board of zoning appeals, in order to allow the project to go forward. The variance involves the location of the planned 36 parking spaces, which are laid out on the diagrams as located east of the building.
Under Bloomington’s unified development ordinance (UDO), the parking is supposed to be
in front front of the building. But as senior zoning planner Eric Greulich told plan commissioners, the building is listed as a “contributing” structure in the SHAARD (State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database). The property’s SHAARD Number is 105-055-60940.
That means the owners have limited options for changes to the building, Greulich said. They’ll be renovating the interior and installing new windows and doors, and adding a patio and landscaping. There will also be connection from the patio to the B-Line Trail, pending approval from the board of park commissioners. Not in the mix are structural changes that would allow for a reconfiguration of parking, Greulich indicated.
No tenant is yet lined up for the renovated building.
Fields told commissioners that he hopes to attract someone who will do something interesting with the space. “We want something that’s gonna be cool… something that makes this place memorable,” he said. Fields continued, “This building is remarkable. I mean, John D. Rockefeller was the principal owner when this thing was built. And it’s just cool.” Fields added, “I hope we find the right people to come in there and do something that will just rock.”
Public comment, offered over the Zoom video conferencing platform, was solidly in favor of the project. Geoff McKim is a Monroe County councilor, but was commenting as a frequent B-Line Trail user who has been walking past the building for several years. McKim called it an “exciting adaptive reuse project.”
As a neighbor of the building, Bloomington resident Paul Ash described himself as “extremely enthusiastic” about the project, saying it had been “a long time coming.”
Fields told the plan commission he had purchased the building through a county tax sale. Monroe County property records show Brownfields IV, for which Fields is the registered agent and member, purchased the property in 2011 for $38,115.
Fields told The B Square that the pace of the work on the building would depend in part on the available money. Last fall he’d put a new roof on the building for about $600,000, he said. If he finds an end user who is ready to “turn and burn” that will mean faster progress, he said.