Photos: Kirkwood Flood of 2021

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Around 3 inches of rain fell on the Bloomington area starting around 10:45 through half past midnight on June 19.

The thunderstorm knocked out power for around 6,000 Duke Energy customers, including a swatch of 1,500 customers east of the downtown square. The initial estimated time for restoration of power indicated on Duke’s outage map was 5 a.m.

The heavy rains that came with the wind and lightning caused street flooding in several areas, including East Kirkwood from Dunn to Grant. A car could be seen stuck on Grant Street in the block south of Kirkwood, swamped by the water flowing south.

The water was thigh deep in some places.

In the photos that accompany this story, yellow bollards are visible blocking off Kirkwood to vehicle traffic. [Monroe County floodplains from FEMA data] Continue reading “Photos: Kirkwood Flood of 2021”

Public right-of-way issues: Use of Kirkwood for dining through Oct. 31 mulled by Bloomington city council, motorcoaches get some parking commission talk

Bloomington restaurants might be able to continue using a few blocks of Kirkwood Avenue as restaurant seating, through Oct. 31.

That’s the effect of a resolution to be considered by Bloomington’s city council at its regular Wednesday meeting this week (June 2).

In mid-December last year, the council passed a resolution  extending the measures through Aug. 6.

The resolution on the council’s Wednesday agenda would also ask the city engineer to issue another temporary order to allow for the continued use of pick-up-drop off (PUDO) zones and “parklets” through Oct. 31. Parklets are the metered parking spots blocked off with orange water-filled traffic barriers to allow for additional outdoor restaurant seating.

The PUDO zones, as well as restaurant seating in the street and in parklets, were conceived as a way to help the business community recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the provisions of the ordinance the council would be extending is the suspension of fees that would ordinarily be charged for seating and merchandising encroachments within the right-of-way.

No fees are currently being charged to business owners for parklets, PUDO zones, or Kirkwood seating, director of economic and sustainability Alex Crowley confirmed to The Square Beacon in an email last week.

Crowley’s confirmation that no fees are being charged came with a caveat: “For now.”

How the private use of the public right-of-way is regulated is fundamental to the policy question to be considered by the city council this week.

It’s the same kind of issue that appeared on the city’s parking commission agenda last Thursday—purely as a discussion item—in connection with motorcoach street parking for downtown hotels. Continue reading “Public right-of-way issues: Use of Kirkwood for dining through Oct. 31 mulled by Bloomington city council, motorcoaches get some parking commission talk”

Column: Feed pigeons fresh clay, don’t use file photos

Janan Alexandra (violin) and Logan Carithers (guitar) are The Sweet May Dews. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

Mid-afternoon on Saturday, I had a choice to make. But let’s not bury the lede with a bunch of boring background.

Shortly after making the right choice, I was listening to two verses of Blaze Foley’s “Clay Pigeons.”

The performance was by street buskers under the canopy of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in downtown Bloomington. Janan Alexandra (violin) and Logan Carithers (guitar) are The Sweet May Dews.

The pair gave me a solemn promise that they would learn the rest of the song. (This could be fairly described as an overstatement, or exaggeration, editorial license, or outright lie.  It reflects mostly my hope, instead of anything that Alexandra and Carithers might have actually said.)

By way of boring background, the choice was about photos. Continue reading “Column: Feed pigeons fresh clay, don’t use file photos”

Two separate blocks on Kirkwood Avenue to be closed through week until end of year, weekends-only for one block

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Still in place on Monday afternoon were the yellow bollards that public works crews installed before the weekend, to close off parts of Kirkwood Avenue in downtown Bloomington.

That’s not due to any slacking by Bloomington public works. They have been setting up and removing the Kirkwood bollards every weekend since mid-June.

But from now until the end of the year, there will be no need to remove the bollards for some parts of the street.

According to a press release from the city of Bloomington issued Friday afternoon, from now until the end of the year,  two one-block segments will be closed through the week, and one additional segment will be closed just on weekends.

The closures, which started just on weekends in mid-June, are meant to allow restaurants to seat more people outside, distanced from each other, in an atmosphere where patrons might feel safer from the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus. Continue reading “Two separate blocks on Kirkwood Avenue to be closed through week until end of year, weekends-only for one block”

Bloomington city council paves way for middle-of-the-road approach to outdoor dining through year’s end

This past weekend could have marked the final chance for restaurant patrons to enjoy a meal straddling the double-yellow roadway markings on Kirkwood Avenue. It’s been an option since mid-June, and was set to expire on Sept. 30.

But Bloomington’s city council acted on Wednesday to extend through the end of the year the authorization for the periodic closing of sections of Kirkwood Avenue to automobile traffic. The same action allowed for expanded merchandizing and seating in the public right of way.

The resolution, approved unanimously by the city council on Wednesday, also extended the easing of sign regulations for downtown businesses, and the simplification of procedures for obtaining a sign permit.

The council’s initial action in June came at the request of the city’s economic and sustainable development department, as way to help restaurants recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as the pandemic continues. The same logic applied to the extension.

Expanded outdoor seating allows restaurants to draw business from patrons who would not choose to eat at a restaurant at all, if it meant dining indoors.

A “parklet” program, which sets up barricades around street parking spaces for expanded outdoor restaurant meeting, without closing down the whole street, did not need additional city council action on Wednesday to continue. Continue reading “Bloomington city council paves way for middle-of-the-road approach to outdoor dining through year’s end”

Parklets add to outside dining options in downtown Bloomington

 

At least through Sept. 30, patrons of some restaurants in downtown Bloomington will be able to feed themselves at tables set up the street, in spaces where drivers normally feed a meter to park their cars.

Called “parklets,” they’re one of a few different approaches the city is taking to help restaurants recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s current 4.5 order leaves in place a restriction on restaurants preventing them from operating at any greater than 75-percent capacity.

The parklets launched this week with a couple of blocked-off areas on the west side of College Avenue on the courthouse square. The concept won approval from the Bloomington board of public works at its Aug. 4 meeting. Continue reading “Parklets add to outside dining options in downtown Bloomington”

Bloomington paves way for Little 500 street sprints

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On Saturday afternoon in downtown Bloomington, a blocked-off Kirkwood Avenue offered enough car-free asphalt for the Indiana University Student Foundation to run 54 heats of cyclists down a 200-meter course.

Kaethe Schroeder (SKI) and Robert Strobel (Black Key Bulls)  prevailed in the  finals of the women’s and men’s divisions, respectively. The Street Sprints are part of the fall cycling series tied to the Little 500 bicycle race held in the spring.

The first rounds of the Street Sprints included 24 heats, which winnowed the men and women’s fields from 167 total cyclists down to 32—16 men and 16 women. The remaining rounds were two-up sprints—only the winner advanced.

According to race director Andrea Balzano, this fall marked the ninth year of Street Sprints. For the first two years the event was held on North Jordan Avenue, but since 2013, it’s been held on Kirkwood.

Kirkwood, of course, is an avenue that’s storied not just in song (“Tonight, I’m gonna see my baby again, we’re gonna go walkin’ down Kirkwood, look at us go”) but in Bloomington’s public works budget presentations this year (“Pavement maintenance project for East Kirkwood Avenue…Delayed due to high contracting costs”).

Continue reading “Bloomington paves way for Little 500 street sprints”