No formal bids were received by the city of Bloomington for the leases of the ground floor space in either of the two parking garages that are now under construction.
That was the anticlimactic news from Monday’s meeting of the city’s redevelopment commission (RDC).
One of the garages is on Fourth Street, to open in August. The other is northwest of city hall in the Trades District, set to open towards the end of March.
The lack of bids is not a setback, according to city’s director of economic and sustainable development Alex Crowley.
Crowley told The Square Beacon after the RDC meeting, “I’m not actually fazed by the lack of bids.”
One reason Crowley is not concerned by the lack of offers is that advertising for bids is a legally required procedure that the RDC has to follow. It was not, as Crowley put it, “a highly visible/marketed listing.”
At its meeting last Thursday, Bloomington’s parking commission got a quick briefing from city garage manager Ryan Daily, about the end of first-hour-free parking in city garages downtown. That’s slated under local law for Jan. 1, 2020.
That’s because the press release also announced some free parking during Thanksgiving and Christmas. The mayor has discretion under local law to waive parking fees “during the holiday season.”
Jan. 1 falls on a Friday, and according to the press release, Saturday parking in city garages will be free in December. Sunday garage parking is always free. So it’s Jan. 4 that will mark the dawn of a no-free-parking era in downtown Bloomington parking garages.
According to the press release, for the week of Thanksgiving—from Thursday, (Nov. 26) through Sunday (Nov. 29)—there will be no charge for street parking downtown, where meters are normally enforced, or in city garages.
One of the two parking garages currently under construction in downtown Bloomington is close enough to completion that on Tuesday afternoon a dozen city insiders and media types got a tour.
Just north of city hall, the opening of the Trades District garage, with around 380 parking spaces, is on course for late March. But enough of the main elements are in place that it’s already unmistakable as a parking garage.
That contrasts with the replacement facility for the 4th Street deck, which is not due to come online until August of 2021. So it’s still coming out of the ground.
Of the 540 spaces to be 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 last year.
Leading Tuesday’s tour were Bloomington’s director for economic and sustainable development, Alex Crowley, and Josh Scism, with Core Planning Strategies, the firm that’s managing both parking garage projects.
Scism focused the group’s attention on the structural elements: concrete, cabling, pumps and the like.
On Monday night, action by Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) ensured that a contract is in place, with Evens Time, Inc., to provide parking control equipment for the two new parking garages currently under construction.
One of the garages is a replacement facility for the 4th Street deck, which was determined to have structural issues and was demolished last year. The new garage is due to come online in August of 2021.
The other garage is being built in the Trades District to the west of city hall. It’s closer to completion and is expected to open in March of 2021.
The equipment covered in the roughly $335,000 contract includes barrier arms, magnetic coils, credit card exit terminals, barcode imaging kits and the like—the hardware necessary to admit and release parking patrons into the garages.
Bloomington is still reserving the right to appeal its unsuccessful eminent domain action to acquire additional land to replace the 352-space parking garage that stood downtown at the corner of 4th and Walnut streets.
Christmas morning dawned bright over the now empty lot at 4th and Walnut streets where a parking garage once stood. It offered 352 spaces for people to park their cars, then go to work, shop, or take care of errands in the downtown area.
The demolition started in earnest in late September and was done by early November.
After last Friday’s court ruling, the now smoothed-over dirt lot will probably remain empty for at least a few more months.
On Friday, Aug. 16, the landowner filed an amended version of objections with the Monroe Circuit Court, in an attempt to prevent the City of Bloomington from acquiring the 222 Hats property at the south end of the block of Walnut Street between 4th and 3rd streets.
The City of Bloomington wants to take the property through an eminent domain process so that it can extend the footprint of its planned replacement parking structure to cover the full length of the block from 4th to 3rd streets.
A month earlier, an initial version of the objections was filed, because it was not clear at the time if the court was going to grant a motion for an extension of the deadline. The court did grant the extension.
A review by The Beacon of both documents revealed a few differences between the first and second versions. A new paragraph was added on the topic of the definition of “public use.” The concept of “public use” is key, because property taken through eminent domain is supposed to be for a public use. The first objection filed by the landowner argues that the taking would not be for a public use, because of the ground floor retail space that is planned for the replacement parking garage.
Another amendment to the document was stylistic—one sentence was edited to conform with Mark Twain’s legendary advice, “If you see an adverb, kill it.”
Some important pieces of a downtown development puzzle were slotted into place this week, as the City of Bloomington and Monroe County both made progress on separate real estate deals.
The transactions are expected to factor into a planned expansion of the county’s convention center, located at 3rd Street and College Avenue. Neither deal decides the direction of the expansion—at this point only westward appears to have been ruled out. The city wants to expand north. The county is not committed to that direction.
At the Monroe County Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday morning, the three-member board approved a $500,000 deal to purchase a couple of parcels making up the parking lot of the NAPA Auto Parts store at Walnut and 3rd streets.