Arguments heard in court on Bloomington’s attempt to take land to replace 4th Street parking garage

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Looking north on Walnut Street at the intersection of 3rd Street on Oct. 6, 2019. The gray building with the purple sign in the left of the frame is the JuanSells.com building that Bloomington is trying to acquire through eminent domain action. The partially demolished building to its north is the 4th Street parking garage. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Around two hours worth of arguments and testimony were heard Monday morning at a show cause hearing about Bloomington’s eminent domain action on the JuanSells.com property. It’s just south of the now already partially demolished 4th Street parking garage.

Bloomington wants the owner, Juan Carlos Carrasquel, to sell his building so that the footprint of a planned replacement parking garage can extend the full block from 4th Street down to 3rd Street. Drawn out during Monday morning’s testimony was the city’s offer to  Carrasquel of $587,500 for the building. He purchased the building for $500,000 in spring of 2018.

The central legal issue in the case is whether the planned ground-floor retail space in the garage disqualifies it from the public purpose that a taking through eminent domain requires.

No bench ruling was made by judge Holly Harvey when the hearing concluded in Monroe’s circuit court at the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center in downtown Bloomington.

Harvey did set a couple of deadlines. The first one is Oct. 18, for Carrasquel’s attorneys to file a reply to the memo filed last Friday by the city’s legal team. The deadline for the two sides to file a proposed set of findings and an order is Oct. 25.

Those deadlines mean a ruling might not come before Nov. 4, when the city’s plan commission is next scheduled to consider the proposed site plan for the replacement garage. The plan commission’s agenda for Monday, Oct. 7 shows the site plan as continued until Nov. 4. If there’s not a ruling by then, in the city’s favor, consideration of the site plan can be expected to be continued another month.

The site plan, which was initially heard by the city planning commission at its July 8 meeting, includes a six-story structure, with 511 parking spaces and roughly 11,800 square feet of non-garage space on the ground floor. Continue reading “Arguments heard in court on Bloomington’s attempt to take land to replace 4th Street parking garage”

Bloomington’s parking commission counts new neighborhood permit rules as initial success, mulls more policy tweaks

Policies on the temporary storage of vehicles inside Bloomington’s city limits, aka “parking,” are key to retaining residents and businesses downtown, as well as the success of cultural events downtown, like this past weekend’s Lotus Festival. Parking as a policy issue reaches into the leafy neighborhoods, outside of downtown.

Late last year and earlier this spring, business owners raised the specter of relocating out of downtown, if their employee parking would be contingent on a quarterly engineering inspection of a repaired 4th Street structure. That led to the reversal of the city council’s initial decision to repair, not rebuild, the 4th Street parking garage. Demolition of the structure started in earnest his past week.

Part of what makes Lotus Festival possible is the reservation of hundreds of parking spaces with bright orange signs marking each space, indicating when motorists are not allowed to park there. They cost $20 apiece plus $10 for administration.

Street parking in the area north of downtown roughly bounded by Walnut and Woodlawn and by 17th and 13th has, since Aug. 15, required a residential neighborhood parking permit. The newly defined Zone 6, has round-the-clock enforcement from Thursday through Sunday.

It’s the city’s parking commission that has purview over these kinds of parking issues. The commission’s meetings are open to the public, like those of all boards and commissions.

The bright orange reserved parking signs got some brief discussion at last Thursday’s meeting, as did the early feedback on Zone 6 and other neighborhood parking permit areas that had their rules tweaked starting Aug. 15. Commissioners heard enough positive feedback that the changes are considered a success.

Its meeting last Thursday was the first one  for the parking commission since June, after its regular sessions in July and August were cancelled due to lack of a quorum.

Difficulty in achieving a quorum is related to one of the topics for future discussion identified by parking commissioners on Thursday. Scott Robinson, who’s assistant director for the city’s transportation and planning department, suggested the combination of three transportation-related commissions: parking, traffic, and bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Here’s a round-up of parking commission meeting topics, other issues commissioners might be tackling, and some other parking-related talk The Beacon has heard at other public meetings. Continue reading “Bloomington’s parking commission counts new neighborhood permit rules as initial success, mulls more policy tweaks”

Photo: Demolition of 4th Street parking garage starts in earnest

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Demolition of the 4th Street parking garage in downtown Bloomington started in earnest on Thursday morning. Streets have been blocked off since early September of the work. The city issued a press release earlier this week with some details of the work that has gone on mostly out of view, alerting members of the public that the garage would soon start crumblin, tumbling down. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

4th Street parking structure site plan review pushed to October

The Bloomington plan commission’s already-started review of the city’s 4th Street parking garage site plan proposal has been given another continuance, according to the planning department’s development services manager, Jackie Scanlan.

Calendar Screen Shot 2019-08-29 at 2.21.30 AMIt’s the second continuance approved by the department under Article VIII (B) of the plan commission’s rules and procedures. The first one bumped the review from the August to the September meeting.

This time, the delay is from Sept. 9 to Oct. 7.

The plan commission considered the site plan at its July meeting. Commissioners took a 3–4 vote to continue the matter, but no commissioner made a motion to recommend approval. So the commission was left without having passed a motion. That meant it was continued by default to August. Continue reading “4th Street parking structure site plan review pushed to October”

4th Street parking garage site plan review delayed a month

The Bloomington plan commission’s already-started review of the city’s 4th Street parking garage site plan proposal won’t resume until Sept. 9.

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The Monday, Aug. 12, meeting packet, which was posted on the city’s website Friday afternoon, includes the parking garage site plan under the heading: “Petitions Continued To: September 19, 2019”

Based on the outcome of deliberations at the July 8 meeting of the plan commission, discussion of the 4th Street parking garage was expected to be continued at the Monday, Aug. 12 meeting, with a possible vote on the question.

Why is the site plan review being continued an additional month? And how can a continuance to September happen without the plan commission voting to continue the issue to September?

The answers to both those questions were provided by city planner Jackie Scanlan in response to an emailed question from The Beacon.

She wrote: “Per our Rules and Procedures, Article VIII (B), petition continuances can be approved by [planning and transportation] if the requests are made more than a week before the hearing. That is what occurred in this case. The petitioner (City) requested continuance in response to the desire of some Plan Commissioners to wait until the eminent domain process is further settled.” Continue reading “4th Street parking garage site plan review delayed a month”

Sept. 3 start for $1.48M demolition of Bloomington’s 4th Street parking garage

At Monday evening’s meeting of Bloomington’s Redevelopment Commission, a guaranteed maximum for the demolition of the city’s 4th Street garage was approved: $1,482,393.

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Dan Fetz, with F.A. Wilhelm Construction, the construction manager for Bloomington’s 4th Street replacement garage, opens bids for the demolition  of the existing garage July 9, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The timeline for demolition was also laid out, which includes a start date of Sept. 3, the day after the Labor Day holiday. The week before, starting Aug. 29, downtown visitors will see lane closures on Walnut and Fourth streets, to prepare for the demolition.

The roughly $1.48 million guaranteed maximum for the demolition is the figure that the city staff negotiated with the construction manager for the project, which is F.A. Wilhelm Construction. The amount is based on a low bid from Denney Excavating out of Plainfield.

Wilhelm received bids from three companies, which were opened on July 9. Base bids at the opening were read as follows: Renascent, Inc. ($1,267,000); Denney Excavating ($810,000); and O’Rourke Wrecking Company ($1,037,000).

Those amounts were all adjusted upward after the scope of the demolition project was adjusted. Denney’s base bid, with the scope adjustment, was accepted at $1,025,400. Continue reading “Sept. 3 start for $1.48M demolition of Bloomington’s 4th Street parking garage”

Change of judge in Bloomington’s eminent domain lawsuit

Another preliminary ruling was issued on Monday in the eminent domain lawsuit the City of Bloomington is pursuing to acquire more land for a replacement parking structure on 4th Street.

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Juan Carlos Carrasquel, whose building at 222 S. Walnut is the target of a City of Bloomington eminent domain action, addresses Bloomington’s plan commission on July 8, 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

From this point forward, Monroe County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Cure won’t be the judge in the case—because she granted the motion from landowner Juan Carlos Carrasquel for a change of venue.

Carrasquel, whose building at 222 S. Walnut is the focus of the city’s acquisition efforts, is represented by attorney Eric Rochford, with Cohen & Malad out of Indianapolis.

The motion for a change of venue—technically a change that is “taken from the judge” not the county of jurisdiction—was made under Indiana Trial Court Rule 76(B).  Under the court rule, the motion for changing the judge doesn’t require that an argument be made or a reason given. The motion can be be made “without specifically stating the ground therefor by a party or his attorney.” Continue reading “Change of judge in Bloomington’s eminent domain lawsuit”

An evolution from humans to birds—a portrait of the artist

On Wednesday morning, the cavernous, brick-walled theater space at Bloomington’s FAR Center for Contemporary Arts stood empty except for a stack of lumber, each piece a pre-cut and bolted-together wooden sandwich of sorts.

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“Archaeopteryx” build at Bloomington’s FAR Center for Contemporary Arts, July 10–12, 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Artist Nicholas Paul DeBruyne set about reducing that stack by laying out the sandwiches pairwise end-to-end in a grid of joints that eventually took up most of the floor. Over the next few hours, these basic bones would get fastened together and tilted towards the ceiling to form the framing elements of a piece of art called “Archaeopteryx.”

The in-progress work will be presented on Friday (July 12) from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at FAR. A panel discussion among DeBruyne and the rest of the members of the creative team from Wevolution Labs is scheduled for 7 p.m. The project is still in a fundraising phase and the team has set up an Indiegogo  campaign. Continue reading “An evolution from humans to birds—a portrait of the artist”

Bloomington plan commission to take up city’s 4th Street parking garage site plan again in August amid doubts about legal authority to act on it

At Monday’s meeting—when some plan commissioners questioned their own legal authority to act on the petition—no decision was made on the city of Bloomington’s proposal to build a replacement parking structure at the 4th and Walnut site.

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Juan Carlos Carrasquel, whose building at 222 S. Walnut is the target of a City of Bloomington eminent domain action, addresses Bloomington’s plan commission on July 8, 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The current garage, evaluated as structurally unsound, has sat derelict since the first of the year.

The commission will take up the site plan review again at its Aug. 12 meeting, possibly with a full complement of its nine members. Two commission members did not attend Monday’s meeting, which factored into the lack of a decision.

The question of legal authority arose, because the proposed site of the replacement garage would include some property at the south end of the block that the city does not currently own—the building that is home to Juansells.com Realty Company. Continue reading “Bloomington plan commission to take up city’s 4th Street parking garage site plan again in August amid doubts about legal authority to act on it”