At its Monday meeting, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) gave a green light to the next incremental step in the construction of a technology center north of Bloomington’s city hall building, in the Trades District.
The center is expected to break ground in mid-2022 and be open in early- to mid-2024, according to Bloomington director of economic and sustainable development Alex Crowley.
The timing depends in part on some back-and-forth the city is having with the federal Economic Development administration (EDA), in connection with a $3.5 million grant awarded by the EDA for the center, Crowley wrote in a late-December email to The B Square.
In a news release issued Friday afternoon, the city of Bloomington announced that it had received a $3.5-million award from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help build a technology center in the Trades District.
News about the EDA grant lends a bit of momentum for the Trades District area generally. That’s because the future technology center location is northwest of the Showers administration building. And a deal is now in the works for Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) to sell the administration building to a company called Fine Tune, so that its corporate headquarters can be located there.
The planned location of the technology center is on the southwest corner of Madison Street and Maker Way, diagonally across from The Mill, which is a co-working space. One of the former Showers Brother Furniture buildings was adapted for reuse by The Mill.
The co-applicant for the EDA grant, with the city of Bloomington, was the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC).
Rogers told county councilors the local labor force numbers have slipped. The labor force figure of 69,205 in December 2020 is down 2.5 percent compared to December 2019, she said.
Out of that labor force of 69,205, in late 2020, 2,315 people were unemployed in Monroe County. That made for a 3.3-percent unemployment rate. It’s 25 percent higher than last year, Rogers said. “We’re in one of the highest unemployment scenarios that we’ve been in the county since the Great Recession,” Rogers said.
Rogers said, “As more and more people become vaccinated, as the spread [of COVID-19] is reduced and hopefully potentially eliminated, [we hope] we’ll see [weekly unemployment] claims get down to the hundreds instead of well over 1,000.”
In December 2020, Bloomington’s economic and sustainability department heard from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) that it would likely be receiving a $3.53 million grant to support the construction of a technology center in the Trades District.
The city has been collaborating with the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation on the technology center, which would be built at Maker Way and Madison Street, north of city hall in downtown Bloomington.
But the likely grant award, which was described to the city in a “merits further consideration” letter from the EDA letter dated Dec. 18, fell $2.3 million short of the $5.83 million the city had requested in its grant application submitted in the fall.
That means the city will now be asking the architect on the project, Axis Architecture + Interiors, to redesign a smaller building, to lower the project cost.
To get authorization for the $29,970 in extra architect fees, Bloomington’s director of economic and sustainable development, Alex Crowley appeared before the city’s redevelopment commission (RDC) on Tuesday. The five-member commission unanimously approved the revised project totals.
On Monday night, Bloomington city council’s four-member sustainable development committee convened a meeting to consider signing a letter of support for an application by the city to the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA). The city looking to build a technology center in the Trades District, just north of city hall.
A couple of committee members balked at being asked to vote on the question, because they’d received the supporting written materials just three hours earlier. So the letter of support from the committee had to wait for approval until Tuesday afternoon when the committee resumed its recessed meeting from Monday, missing one of its members.
The Tuesday afternoon meeting lasted just six minutes, which included a reading of the letter aloud into the record. One missing instance of the word “of” was noted and corrected before the letter was approved.
The application had received an initial OK in early August from the city’s redevelopment commission (RDC). The RDC is involved because it owns the land, and the project requires expenditure of about $2 million in tax increment finance (TIF) funds, money that the RDC oversees.
A couple hours before the city council’s committee met on Monday, the RDC amplified the application’s green light, given six weeks ago, with some additional endorsements. The five voting RDC members unanimously endorsed a feasibility study, a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS, pronounced /sεdz/), the funding match, and use of the land.
The RDC owns the real estate and would continue to own it, along with the building, after it is constructed. According to representatives of Axis Architecture + Interiors the construction could be completed, possibly by the end of 2022.
If the EDA were to approve the application, the $2 million in local funds would get a 20-80 federal match to pay for the construction of roughly $9.4-million, 3-story, 31,375 square foot building at Maker Way and Madison Street, north of city hall in downtown Bloomington. The estimated dollar figure includes architectural and engineering design fees, permits, inspections and connection fees.
Bloomington is applying to the federal government for an 80-20 matching grant that would pay for a $10 million “tech accelerator” to be constructed in the Trades District area of downtown Bloomington.
According to Jennifer Pearl, president of the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation, the tech accelerator would “make programming and services available to tech companies in our region, to help them grow and commercialize.”
The physical location in the Trades District would make it a “technology hub,” Pearl said.
Startups and mature tech companies alike would be candidates for using the tech accelerator’s services, Pearl said.
Bloomington’s 20 percent share of the project would be $2 million, drawn from revenue to the city’s consolidated TIF (tax increment finance) district. That’s why the proposal appeared on the Bloomington redevelopment commission’s Monday night agenda. The RDC administers the city’s TIF funds.