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Bloomington hires firm to plan technology park

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Development officials have hired a company to plan a downtown Bloomington technology park they hope can eventually spawn a bustling high-tech business hub in the southern Indiana city.

Columbus, Ohio-based landscape architecture firm MSI/KKG and its partners will craft a master plan and redevelopment strategy for 12 acres in downtown Bloomington that the city purchased last year from Indiana University.

Bloomington will pay the company up to $275,000 for the expected yearlong effort that will include preparing a market feasibility analysis and developing an infrastructure plan. The study will also evaluated local housing needs.

City economic development director Danise Alano-Martin told The Herald-Times that the goal is to create a certified tech park with the infrastructure to support technology-related businesses.

She said the opportunity for growth in the area is strong based on industries in Indianapolis, 60 miles to the north, and the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center southwest of Bloomington that employs about 5,000 people.

"From Indianapolis to Crane, I think we've got a very strong research and technology draw," Alano-Martin said. "I think if we can capitalize on that in Bloomington — and I think we can — then I think you are looking at a bigger market."

She said that having the park will provide companies with the kind of urban and recreational space that will attract the talent they need for those businesses.

Bloomington Economic Development Corp. President Ron Walker said a certified tech park would give Bloomington the infrastructure suited to the unique needs of technology-based companies. He said there's "great potential" in attracting technology businesses that also tend to offer higher wages.

MSI/KKG's master planning process will likely run through January 2013 and will include open meetings to gather input and ideas from the public, stakeholder meetings and intensive design work.

The company will partner with three other firms that bring different skills to the table for the project. It was chosen from 10 firms that responded to a request for proposals and from three finalists that made it to the second round of interviews.

Alano-Martin said MSI/KKG was chosen based on the work it had done on research parks, scientific research parks and downtown redevelopment projects. She said it also has a partner specializing in technology infrastructure — something no other applicant offered.

The city intends to improve the infrastructure of the 12-acre plot through work that may include relocating and repairing storm and sanitary sewer systems, adding or extending roads and likely demolishing a large warehouse.

Alano-Martin said MSI/KKG will also be looking at green options, in hopes of making the area "as sustainable a technology park as possible."

Afterward, she hopes most of the property will be sold to businesses and returned to the city's tax roll.

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