A controversial gateway project for the north end of Bloomington’s Miller-Showers Park has been paused for a wide-open reconsideration of the design.
Any installation of a redesigned gateway element would not come until 2024.
But in connection with the site improvements in the vicinity, a planned filling of a sidewalk gap on College Avenue in front of the former Steak n’ Shake will be completed in the coming weeks.
That’s all based on a news release issued by the city of Bloomington mid-afternoon on Friday.
Not mentioned in the news release is Bloomington mayor John Hamilton. But when reached by The B Square, interim parks director Tim Street said he and staff from other departments had worked with the administration on the plan.
The gateway was to have been a 40-foot tall monument with a price tag of $400,000—which was designed to feature the word “Bloomington” in all caps inscribed vertically from top to bottom, with LED lighting.
Street confirmed for The B Square that the actual gateway element has not yet been fabricated by bo-mar Industries, the Indianapolis firm selected for the job.
But preliminary design work has been done by bo-mar, which online city financial records show was paid $32,637.72 on Friday Oct. 27 for that work.
Street called bo-mar a “fantastic” company to work with. He said one possibility is that after getting additional feedback from the community bo-mar will be asked to complete a different design. But he added that a differently designed piece, fabricated by bo-mar, is not the only option. He told The B Square, “We don’t know the specific direction that this will take.”
The news release notes that the money from the bond issuance from which the funds for the gateway project were appropriated, has to be spent on costs associated with the gateway project.
Those bonds, which were a part of a package, which the administration branded as “Bicentennial bonds,” were approved by the city council in 2018, the 200th anniversary of Bloomington’s founding. In the approval voted on by the council, $1.5 million is the amount listed for “entryway beautification, tree planting, landscaping and related improvements at the entryways to the city.”
Friday’s news release quotes Angela Van Rooy, who is Bloomington’s interim communications director: “We have already taken steps to expand our communication efforts and to provide additional time for feedback from all interested parties.”
The news release says that plans for the future of the gateway project will be shared with the community via city-issued news releases, social media channels, and on the Bicentennial Gateway Project website. Residents can sign up for emailed updates on the project by registering at bton.in/inbox.
The administration’s pivot from the original plan came after considerable vocal opposition from several segments of the community—arts, environmental, as well as rank and file residents.
The change in plan also came after the board of public works declined on three successive occasions to approve the use of the city’s right-of-way—for the installation of the monolith and for the various ancillary site improvements that are still planned.
At its meetings held on Sept. 12, Sept. 26, and Oct. 10, the board declined to act on the right-of-way request. On none of those occasions did the three-member board take a vote on the question. At the first meeting, they voted to put off a decision until the following meeting. At the two subsequent meetings, the motion to approve the use of the right-of-way died for a lack of a second.
According to the news release, the ancillary site work that was planned in the area of north Miller-Showers Park has been rescheduled for spring of 2024. That work, which is to be done under a $575,000 contract with Reed & Sons Construction, includes removing Callery pear trees (which are an invasive species), installing sidewalks, reconstructing the pedestrian island on Gourley Pike and repairing asphalt, as well as landscaping the area.
One part of the work that has been discussed in connection with the gateway project will see action this fall. That’s work to fill the sidewalk gap along the west side of College Avenue in front of the former Steak ‘n Shake. That gap will be filled “in the coming weeks to improve connectivity in the gateway area and allow appropriate pedestrian detours during future phases of construction,” according to Friday’s news release.