Bloomington redeveloping 15 acres near downtown

The city of Bloomington is embarking on its most ambitious redevelopment yet by seeking proposals for a mix of uses on 15 acres near its downtown.

Proposals to redevelop the property between 10th and 11th streets and west of Morton Street near City Hall went out in early October and are due Dec. 10.

“It’s an extremely important property in downtown that’s had a history of industrial use,” said Denise Alano-Martin, the city’s director of economic and sustainable development.

Bloomington bought most of the land—12 acres—from Indiana University in 2011 for $9.3 million and combined it with a few acres it already owned. The city demolished two buildings that stood on the property—the 31,074-square-foot IU publications plant at the corner of West 11th and Rogers streets, and the 81,273-square-foot IU food-storage building immediately to the south.

Still standing are four buildings (one is a garage) originally occupied by the Showers Brothers Furniture company, which at its peak in the 1920s produced more than 700,000 pieces of furniture a year. The two-story, 18,000-square-foot administration building is available for purchase separately.

The city’s master plan envisions office users for the century-old buildings, which were last leased by IU. The rest of the plan calls for a mix of retail and multifamily development geared toward year-round living as opposed to student housing, Alano-Martin said.

That’s because there’s been a slew of student housing projects built recently in downtown Bloomington, including the four-story, 152-unit Park at Morton on West 11th Street.

As part of the redevelopment of the land, the city will straighten a one-block stretch of 10th Street between Rogers and Morton streets, where it jogged around the mammoth food-storage building.

Depending on the proposals the city receives, leaders might choose one that calls for using the entire parcel, or they may divide the property among multiple developers, Alano-Martin said.

They’re hoping the office component will attract tech firms since the property falls within the boundaries of the city’s certified technology park. The city launched its plans last year for the park northwest of downtown.

“We’ve never done anything on this scale with such a mixed-use purpose,” Alano-Martin said. “It’s one we think will have a lasting, transformative impact on the downtown.”

The only other development the city has undertaken is the 12-unit EverGreen Village affordable housing project. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, project includes several environmentally friendly features.

It’s possible the city will award financial incentives to a developer, but it already is investing “a lot of money” in infrastructure, utilities and street improvements, Alano-Martin said.

The city purchased the land from IU by issuing bonds through its tax-increment financing district.

City leaders held an information session Oct. 23 that drew about 20 people, including local business owners and developers from around the state. The city hopes to have interested developers present their plans sometime in January with a decision to follow in early spring.

The Indianapolis office of CBRE is coordinating the RFP process for the city.

Bloomington's attention to economic development has not gone without notice. On Thursday night, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce named the city "Community of the Year" at its annual awards dinner.

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