Requested tweaks to zoning for 340-bedroom mixed-use project on east side to be weighed by Bloomington city council

In the pre-pandemic times of early February 2020, Bloomington’s city council approved the planned unit development (PUD) zoning for the 3.2-acre empty lot at the northwest corner of Pete Ellis Drive and Longview Avenue.

The lot is not yet developed with the project that the new zoning allowed: a building with studios, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom apartments totaling 344-bedrooms, which also incorporates a 306-space parking garage and 19,000 of commercial space.

It’s also not exactly the project that will eventually be constructed, based on a request from developer Tyler Curry (Curry Urban Properties) for the zoning to be tweaked.

After the Bloomington plan commission’s approval on Monday night, the next step for the changes to the PUD will be review and a decision by Bloomington’s city council.

Under the modified zoning request that was approved by Bloomington’s plan commission on Monday night, the bedroom count doesn’t change much—from 344 to 341 bedrooms.

It’s the mix of unit sizes that Curry would like to change. In addition to the studios, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom units previously proposed, Curry would like to add up to 35 3-bedroom units.

Besides the unit mix, the other significant change is a request to be released from a condition that a “green wall” be constructed as a facade on the south side of the building, to help mask the parking garage from view. Under a proposed new design, the parking garage is wrapped by apartments—it’s not visible from either the north or south side of the building. Continue reading “Requested tweaks to zoning for 340-bedroom mixed-use project on east side to be weighed by Bloomington city council”

Dirt gets moved for 69-house Habitat for Humanity neighborhood in southwest Bloomington: “Hope” is the thing…

On Monday afternoon, Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County’s board chair Meredith Rogers addressed a gathering of about 50 people for a ceremonial groundbreaking at Osage Place.

It’s a 69-house project just east of RCA Community Park, which is getting built in two phases.

At Monday’s event, held at the western stub of Guy Avenue where the pavement ends, it was evident from the mounds of dirt and the deep gravel, that the first phase of construction is already underway. The infrastructure is being put in place for the extensions of some east-west street stubs.

Rogers framed her remarks by talking about hope. “Creating the hope of a better future for our partner families is what Habitat for Humanity is all about,” Rogers said.

Habitat houses are built with volunteer labor and tax-deductible donations of money and materials. The houses are then sold to low-income families who make between 25 and 80 percent of the area median income (AMI).

Rogers continued, “Habitat provides that feeling of expectation or desire of a decent affordable place to call home.”

For Rogers, Monday’s groundbreaking was not the time to stop, but to continue hoping.

Rogers said, “There is still so much work to be done. The need for affordable housing is greater than ever.” Rogers added, “Habitat needs your help to continue creating the hope of a better future for our partner families.”

She wrapped up with four lines from Emily Dickenson: “Hope” is the thing with feathers – / That perches in the soul – / And sings the tune without the words – / And never stops – at all.

Continue reading “Dirt gets moved for 69-house Habitat for Humanity neighborhood in southwest Bloomington: “Hope” is the thing…”

Bloomington to get 85 apartments in place of 85 hotel rooms on North Walnut

The image of the Wingate by Wyndham parcel is taken from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property lookup system.

A project that will convert the 85-room Wingate by Wyndham hotel on North Walnut Street to a multifamily project with the same number of apartments received approval from Bloomington’s plan commission on Monday.

The vote was unanimous.

Monday’s session was the regular monthly meeting for the plan commission, which a week ago wrapped up its work on a 10-ordinance package of proposed changes to the city’s unified development ordinance. Wednesday’s meeting kicks off the city council’s work on that package.

Unlike that 10-ordinance package, the conversion of the motel to “micro-apartments” will not get a review by the city council. Monday’s plan commission’s approval cleared the way to the permitting process, which could mean 85 additional one-bedroom apartments available for rent by the fall.

That’s based on the guesstimated timeline given on Monday by Gene Goldstein, with Bramic Design Group, the architect on the project. Goldstein said that construction on the project would probably take 60 to 90 days.
Continue reading “Bloomington to get 85 apartments in place of 85 hotel rooms on North Walnut”

Bloomington public buses continue to roll at 21-percent ridership under COVID-19 conditions, board OKs deal with Trinitas development

At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, the board of Bloomington Transit handled routine business, like receiving a financial report from its controller.

The five-member group also handled another item that has become routine business for the board: an extension of its COVID-19 protocols for another month—through Dec. 15.

The board also approved a deal with Trinitas Ventures, the developer of a roughly 1,000-bedroom project oriented in large part towards students, to provide transit service to the West 17th and Arlington Road area on the west side of town.

The deal with Trinitas was a requirement for the city council’s approval of the zoning for the project. The first year of service will cost $359,000. Construction on that project is expected to start as soon as the real estate deal closes, which is early December, based on remarks from Jeff Kanable of Trinitas, made to the BT board at Tuesday’s meeting.

The board also approved its Federal Transit Administration safety plan on just a 3–2 vote, with dissent from Alex Cartwright and James McLary. The plan did not appear to be controversial, but Cartwright and McLary wanted better clarity about how the definition of “safety event” that’s used by the feds squares up with BT’s statistics.

In another piece of business handled on Tuesday, the BT board approved an extension with the company that sells advertising on its bus wraps. BT splits the revenue 50-50 with Mesmerize, formerly Clean Zone Marketing. That stands at about $175,000 annually, according to BT general manager Lew May at the meeting. That’s about a six-fold increase since 2015, when BT started doing business with Mesmerize, he said.

The extension of COVID-19 protocols for BT means continued fare-free boarding for all passengers and a closure of the indoor passenger waiting area of the downtown transit center. The Grimes Lanes administration building will also remain closed to the public. Designated administrative management and employees will continue to work remotely. Continue reading “Bloomington public buses continue to roll at 21-percent ridership under COVID-19 conditions, board OKs deal with Trinitas development”

Zoning for 750-bed student complex gets OK, after local lawmakers relent

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Proposed planned unit development (PUD) zoning for a 750-bed student housing project on North Walnut Street, at the site of the current Motel 6, is now approved after a special meeting of the Bloomington City council on Monday night.

Responding to a question from The Beacon after the meeting, St. Louis-based Collegiate Development Group’s Brandt Stiles said construction is planned to start in July 2020, and the first tenants are expected to be able to move in by August 2022.

The council had defeated the proposed PUD zoning 12 days earlier with a vote of 3-5-1. Those five votes against the project on the nine-member council were enough to reject it on Sept. 4, after the city’s plan commission had recommended it unanimously.

Of the five previous no votes on the city council, two changed to yes—Steve Volan and Isabel Piedmont-Smith’s. Changing his vote from abstention to a yes was Chris Sturbaum. So the PUD zoning was approved on a 5-3 tally. Possibly adding a sixth to the yes side would have been Allison Chopra, who voted for the PUD on Sept. 4. She was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Voting no were Dave Rollo, Dorothy Granger and Andy Ruff.

Achieving clarity in writing about various concessions offered by CDG, through “reasonable conditions,” proved to be persuasive enough to add the three yes votes.

Those conditions included: sliding the building to the west nearer Walnut Street; creating a plaza in place of parking in front of the building, with two pedestrian access points to the plaza; removal of one floor from the east building; 50 solar panels generating a total of 20kW; a 20,000 square-foot green roof; parking offered to tenants only on an a-la-carte basis; $300,000 worth of sidewalk improvements on Walnut, and from Walnut to Dunn on 19th Street; funding of a Bloomington Transit route five miles long (around $130,000 a year); and adding additional brick to the facade.

Also a part of the project is a donation to the city’s housing development fund of more than $2 million.

The three councilmembers in opposition to the project did not exploit a chance they had towards the beginning of the meeting to end the proceedings early, and let the council’s Sept. 4 vote stand. That’s because the motion to suspend the rules, in order to bring back the question, needed a two-thirds majority, which is six votes on the nine-member council.

Had all three voted against suspending the rules, the motion, in Chopra’s absence, would fallen short of the six votes it needed. If that vote had failed, the next motion would have been to adjourn.

During the meeting, Rollo said that as a councilmember he might have voted against suspending the rules, but as president of the council, he wanted to allow the council’s majority to prevail on the merits of the project, which he understood to be in favor. After the meeting, Ruff called the decision to treat as separate issues the motion to suspend the rules and the vote on the project itself the “right thing to do.”

Continue reading “Zoning for 750-bed student complex gets OK, after local lawmakers relent”

Plan commission OKs The Mill, 130 more apartment units to be added to Bloomington

Given site plan approval by Bloomington’s plan commission at its Monday meeting was The Mill, a five-building, 130-unit apartment complex in a development in the southwest part of town, near Summit Elementary. Construction is expected to start by August or September.

Sudbury from above perspective Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 9.08.31 AM
Rendering of The Mill from  the July 8, 2019 meeting packet for Bloomington’s plan commission.

Completion of the project is targeted for August 2020, according to an email to The Beacon from Steve Brehob, who is president of Smith, Brehob & Associates, which is handling the site planning for The Ridge Group, a Muncie-based firm.

According to documents in the plan commission’s packet, each of the five buildings will include 26 units with a mix of studios, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments.
Continue reading “Plan commission OKs The Mill, 130 more apartment units to be added to Bloomington”