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.
The now open space in downtown that’s roughly bounded by 10th and 11th streets, and Rogers and Madison streets, will get some renewed focus and attention for development.
The area is known as the Trades District, which is a 12-acre portion of a larger area comprising Bloomington’s certified technology park.
The real estate was purchased by Bloomington’s redevelopment commission more than a decade ago.
At its meeting last Monday, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) approved an agreement that pays The Dimension Mill, Inc. $200,000 each year for two years to “advance the City’s objectives for the Tech Center, Trades District and Bloomington’s innovation ecosystem…”
The Dimension Mill, Inc. is a non-profit corporation that operates the coworking space known as The Mill, in the former dimension mill of the Showers Brother furniture factory.
A decision on an $8.75-million real estate deal to expand the footprint of city hall inside its existing building has been postponed by Bloomington’s city council.
What has been delayed until next week is a decision to approve the Bloomington redevelopment commission’s purchase agreement for the western part of the former Showers Brothers factory building that houses city hall.
It’s part of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s plan to put both the city’s main police station and fire department administration in the same historic city hall building. The proposed move is part of a bigger plan estimated at over $30-million—which includes reconstructing the flood-damaged Fire Station #1 and remodeling Fire Station #3.
Wednesday’s vote, which was unanimous among the eight councilmembers present, came after more than two hours of deliberations.
Absent was Jim Sims, who in early December described as “a joke” a “Plan B” alternative, which involves just renovation of the existing 3rd Street police station.
The approval of the building purchase is part of the same agenda item as the ordinance that appropriates the proceeds of $29.5 million in bonds that have already been issued. Based on the wording of the bond issuance, the proceeds have to be used for public safety purposes.
Postponement came at the point in the meeting when Ron Smith moved an amendment that would remove from the appropriation ordinance the reference to the building purchase. The amendment would also prohibit use of the bond proceeds for purchase of the Showers building.
The purchase of the western part of the Showers building, which also houses city hall, won’t be decided by Bloomington’s city council until next year.
But in a separate action on Wednesday night, the council did effectively decide that the site of a new Monroe County jail will not be the county government’s first choice, which was an 87-acre piece of land in the southwestern corner of Bloomington.
On a 7–2 vote on Wednesday night, the city council postponed consideration of the $8.75-million Showers building purchase, which would be made by the Bloomington redevelopment commission, if the council approves the deal. Dissenting on the postponement were Matt Flaherty and Jim Sims.
On Jan. 18, 2023, the council will again take up the question of buying the western part of the Showers building, to serve as the city’s main police station, and fire department’s administrative headquarters.
Bloomington city council president Susan Sandberg. (Dec. 7, 2022)
Bloomington city councilmember Jim Sims. (Dec. 7, 2022)
From left: Bloomington city councilmember Dave Rollo and city council attorney Stephen Lucas. (Dec. 7, 2022)
Bloomington city councilmember Ron Smith. (Dec. 7, 2022)
From left: Bloomington city council attorney Stephen Lucas and assistant city attorney Larry Allen. (Dec. 7, 2022)
Bloomington fire chief Jason Moore. (Dec. 7, 2022)
Bloomington deputy chief of police Scott Oldham. (Dec. 7, 2022)
Bloomington police union president Paul Post. (Dec. 7, 2022)
Bloomington mayor John Hamilton. (Dec. 7, 2022)
Bloomington’s city council voted 8–1 on Wednesday night to approve the issuance of $29.5 million in general revenue bonds, to pay for public safety projects—including the purchase and renovation of the western part of the former Showers Brothers Furniture building that houses city hall.
But the purchase of the western part of the historic Showers building was not included in the city council’s Wednesday approval. That vote is expected on Dec. 21.
The western part of the Showers building is where Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s administration is proposing to construct a replacement for the 3rd Street police station, and a new fire department administrative headquarters.
Also included in the bond proposal is the reconstruction of Fire Station #1 and the remodel of Fire Station #3, among other projects, for around $10.5 million.
The appropriation for the expenditure of $8.75 million for the building purchase, plus about $15 million in renovations, will get a first reading at next Wednesday’s (Dec. 14) meeting of the council, with a final vote expected the following week, on Dec. 21.
Together with the appropriation ordinance, the council will be asked to approve the Bloomington redevelopment commission’s purchase agreement for the Showers building.
Dissenting on the bond issuance vote was city council president Susan Sandberg.
Bloomington city council president Susan Sandberg. (Nov. 30, 2022)
Bloomington city councilmember Steve Volan. (Nov. 30, 2022)
Bloomington city councilmember Kate Rosenbarger. (Nov. 30, 2022)
Bloomington city councilmember Jim Sims. (Nov. 30, 2022)
Bloomington city councilmember Dave Rollo. (Nov. 30, 2022)
Deputy mayor Don Griffin. In the foreground is Bloomington mayor John Hamilton. (Nov. 30, 2022)
Deputy mayor Don Griffin. (Nov. 30, 2022)
Bloomington police chief Mike Diekhoff. (Nov. 30, 2022)
Bloomington mayor John Hamilton. (Nov. 30, 2022)
Police union president Paul Post. (Nov. 30, 2022)
Schematic for rebuild of Fire Station #1.
Last Wednesday, president of Bloomington’s police union, Paul Post, led off his public commentary at Bloomington’s city council meeting with a general statement of support for the administration’s plan to upgrade and modernize the city’s police station.
“We fully support mayor [John] Hamilton’s initiative to make the much needed improvements to working conditions at police and fire facilities,” Post said.
Post added, “I’ve worked at the 3rd Street police station now for over 20 years, and I can tell you that everyone would welcome a new and upgraded modern facility.”
The view of the CFC Properties side of the former Showers furniture building, from the southwest.
The view is from the west of the Showers building. The pink outline shows the portion of the building that Bloomington has made an accepted offer to purchase from CFC Properties. The image is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s property lookup system.
In mid-July, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) gave initial approval to a $9.25 million deal to purchase CFC’s portion of the Showers building—which houses city hall in the eastern part of the building, in addition to CFC offices in the western part.
But that price has now dropped by a half million dollars.
Bloomington was able to negotiate a price reduction, according to a memo provided in the RDC’s meeting information packet, “[b]ased on renovation cost estimates produced by the consultants assisting with due diligence.”
During the due diligence phase for the purchase agreement, the city has brought in architects and public safety construction experts, to estimate the cost to convert the space to a police and fire administrative headquarters.
An item related to a Winslow Road resurfacing project—which was postponed by Bloomington’s redevelopment commission from its meeting two weeks ago—still did not get a vote by the RDC on Monday.
The resolution that appeared Monday’s meeting agenda did not need a vote, according to assistant city attorney Larry Allen, because the construction contracts were not yet ready to be approved. And the contract approvals were not yet ready because the grant from INDOT’s Community Crossings matching grant program has not yet been awarded.
But public works director Adam Wason was able to respond to questions from RDC members about the project. The item had been postponed from two weeks ago, because Wason was not able to attend that meeting.
On Monday, Allen also sketched out the legal department’s position on why TIF (tax increment finance) funds are allowed to be spent on a project like Winslow Road resurfacing. The project entails milling down the surface of the road by a couple of inches, laying new asphalt and re-striping the pavement.
Winslow Road, which cuts east-west across the southern part of Bloomington, has received a nod from the city’s redevelopment commission for a resurfacing project that is supposed to be completed sometime in 2023.
The preliminary engineering work for the project is hoped to start this fall and last through the spring, with construction to begin in 2023.
The RDC’s initial approval, which came at its regular Tuesday meeting, established the work as an RDC project, with a kind of placeholder cost of $500,000. But the action by the five-member RDC did not approve the expenditure of any funds.