Parking garage ribbon cutting marks transition, a prelude to hoped-for development

Saturday’s ribbon cutting at Bloomington’s new 350-space parking garage in the Trades District, west and north of the city hall building on Morton Street, was a chance to mark an upcoming transition in city government.

It was also an occasion for local leaders to talk about the positive impact on development that the garage is hoped to have. The surface lot it replaces, just to the west of the city hall building, offered around 100 spaces. So the garage is netting around 250 parking spaces.

In his remarks from the podium, Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton had worked out the math, that next Tuesday, deputy mayor Mick Renneisen’s 40th anniversary of service to the city would amount to a span of more than 14,600 days. Renneisen is wrapping up his tenure with the city next Friday.

Incoming deputy mayor Don Griffin also attended the ceremony. He might have attended as president of Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC), which approved the TIF financing for the garage. But Griffin resigned that post upon being appointed deputy mayor several weeks ago.

It was Cindy Kinnarney who delivered remarks on behalf of the RDC.

Much of Renneisen’s period of service came as the city’s director of parks and recreation. That was Renneisen’s role at the city when the B-Line Trail opened. The trail runs just to the west of the new Trades District garage.

The trail’s ribbon cutting, and Renneisen’s rolel in it, got a mention from CFC Properties president Jim Murphy during his remarks on Saturday. CFC Properties owns the western chunk of the Showers building that houses city hall.

“I want to acknowledge my friend Mick Renneisen,” Murphy said. He continued, “We have been in a lot of ribbon cutting ceremonies and groundbreaking ceremonies together. And I remember one just south of here, the ribbon cutting ceremony for the B-Line. …Mick was instrumental in that.”

The construction of the parking garage is considered to be necessary to attract developers to the now vacant parcel just to the north of the garage, and on the southwest corner of Rogers and 10th Street. That real estate is now owned by the city’s redevelopment commission.

In October 2020, Bloomington’s director of economic and sustainable development Alex Crowley said that in order for Bloomington to stimulate the kind of private investment in the area that it wanted to see, some parking capacity would be needed. “We needed to essentially make a down payment, if you will, on that municipal parking capacity, which is what this garage is,” Crowley said.

Crowley added, “What we want to try to do with this garage is to signal to the development community that if they develop office space, like what we want them to do, and if they attract tenants into the area, like we want them to do, that if those tenants have parking needs, there is parking capacity in the vicinity to meet those needs.”

The city has an application pending with the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) for a grant to develop a portion of the land with a new technology center.

In his remarks on Saturday, Murphy looked to a future of potential development of the area. “Redevelopment and economic development and opportunity—that is what this is all about,” Murphy said.

Murphy continued, “I’m really excited to see what this place will be in the future. I appreciate the city, the leadership, the continued partnership.” He wrapped up his remarks by saying the parking garage will enhance the Showers building district, and congratulated everyone involved.

The first car is not expected to be parked in the garage until next week. The elevator still needs to be inspected. That’s one of the items on the final punch list for the project that is not yet done.

Another unfinished item is the solar panels for the roof. They have been delivered, but are not yet installed. The panels factor into the garage’s Parksmart certification, which is a sustainability credential.

Also not yet installed is the public artwork to be created by Esteban Garcia Bravo called “Aurora Almanac.” The work will integrate contributions from the public, in the form of designs they draw on gridded paper, which Bravo will scan and use to compute 3D images.

The tiles are due to be installed in the stairwells of the parking garage later this year. Bravo conducted a workshop at Saturday’s ribbon for people to contribute sketches to the project.

Contributing an outline of a treble clef with musical notes winding around the interior was director of economic and sustainable development, Alex Crowley. The image reflects his background as a composer.

Crowley told The Square Beacon on Saturday that there is still nothing booked for the Trades District garage ground floor retail spaces on the Rogers Street side of the structure. But he said there’s been some interest expressed, and he’s optimistic.  The Trades District garage retail space offering of commercial space includes three units of different sizes: 1,942 SF; 1,847 SF; and 1,258 SF.

The city’s new 4th Street garage, which is currently well on its way to a targeted completion date of August 2021, also has commercial space available on its ground floor.

The Fourth Street garage retail space offering shows a single rectangle in the southeast corner of the building that takes up about 40 percent of the Walnut Street side and half the 3rd Street side.

In February, Bloomington’s RDC did not receive any bids for retail space in either of the two new parking garages. Crowley said at the time, “I am confident that the spaces will be appealing.”

Of the 540 spaces that are being constructed in the 4th Street replacement garage, 352 count as replacements for the spaces that were housed in the previous 4th Street structure. It was closed at the end of 2018 due to structural failure, and demolished in 2019.

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