Bloomington’s mayor says he’s convinced: A proposal to demolish an aging downtown parking garage and build a new library and transit center has some merit.
Mayor Tari Renner weighed in publicly Tuesday for the first time on that proposed “catalyst” project under consideration by the Downtown Bloomington Task Force. That committee has been working since summer to develop final recommendations for consideration by the Bloomington City Council.
The task force’s chair, Ward 4 Alderman Amelia Buragas, has expressed support for the Market Street garage property as that catalyst project. It would provide a larger Bloomington Public Library and a new transfer center for Connect Transit—two longstanding items on the community’s to-do list.
The idea does align with the city’s 2013 Downtown Bloomington Strategy and its 2015 comprehensive plan, both approved by previous councils. The comprehensive plan, for example, calls for communitywide services like the library to be in the city’s core, preferably downtown.
But the current council appears split on the idea. Aldermen told the library’s board of trustees in June to focus on expanding at its current Olive Street location, and some aldermen voiced similar opinions in September after the Market Street idea went public. Ward 9 Alderman Kim Bray, who also serves on the downtown task force, voiced opposition to the idea at a recent meeting.
“I don’t think any idea that’s that potentially game-changing and exciting should be dismissed,” Renner said on GLT’s Sound Ideas. “Is it possible? I don’t know. But it seems that it’s exciting enough that we ought to take a closer look at it before we say, ‘Eh, no. Not interested. Let’s move on to something else.’”
Renner said Buragas convinced him the proposal has merit. But he cautioned that he still has questions about how much Connect Transit will be able to invest in the project, how much it would ultimately cost the city, and whether the site can actually fit new parking, a library, and a transit center.
Meanwhile, the Downtown Bloomington Task Force met Tuesday and is taking one idea off the table for its final report—adding parking meters to downtown street parking. Buragas said the panel is ordering its priorities and would rather do other things first than change the parking plan.
“What makes sense there is something that’s already in progress, which is this notion that we need to do a full parking study of the downtown area,” Buragas said. “I assume that would have to include an analysis of how people pay for parking. (We’d) encourage a long-term analysis and to see that study move forward.”
Task force members say their final report will have tiers of priorities focusing on categories such as beautification, public safety, and infrastructure. It will identify low-hanging, low-cost fruit that can be done soon and move up to more expensive measures such a brick crosswalks that can be done over time.
Editor's note: GLT Program Director Mike McCurdy is chair of the Connect Transit board.
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