City council postponed a vote Wednesday evening on a $29.5 million bond to build two parking garages downtown.
One project would demolish and replace the Fourth Street Garage, and the other would create a garage in the Trades District, a downtown business neighborhood. Mayor John Hamilton presented the garages as a critical investment in the economy.
“We need more good jobs in town, and especially downtown,” Hamilton said. “And those employees need infrastructure.”
Both structures would have sustainability features and could eventually be converted to housing and office space. Hamilton said these would be the most environmentally friendly garages ever built in Bloomington.
Precise designs for the garages are still undetermined. Council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith said she resented being given a one-page memo from the administration to supplement a $29.5 million bond.
“It just feels really insufficient,” Piedmont-Smith said.
The Fourth Street Garage has not been adequately maintained throughout its 35 years in business, Hamilton said. The garage will close Jan. 1 for public safety purposes whether or not a new garage is approved in its place.
Demolition and construction would take 18 to 24 months from the day of approval, Adam Wason, public works director, said.
Although a specific design has not been determined, the new garage would have up to 550 spaces and at least six electric vehicle charging streets, solar panels, bicycle parking, reserved spaces for compact cars and public restrooms.
The Fourth Street Garage would require $750,000 to demolish the current facility and about $16.2 million to build a replacement.
About 25 percent of the costs would be covered by parking revenues, city controller Jeffrey Underwood said. The remainder would come from tax increment financing, a property tax for redevelopment projects.
Higher parking rates passed by city council in September are set to take effect at the beginning of 2019.
Alex Crowley, director of economic and sustainable development, framed the Trades District Garage as a key step to driving wage and job growth.
Bloomington’s gross domestic product, annual wages and employment are not growing as quickly as other cities, according to charts Crowley presented from the Harvard Business School.
“The reality is the economy is not performing where it needs to be,” Crowley said.
The Trades District garage would have up to 300 spaces, electric vehicle parking powered by rooftop solar panels, bicycle parking and spaces for compact vehicles.
Several members of the business community spoke Wednesday evening and unanimously supported the need for the parking garages.
Lynn Coyne, president of the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation, said parking is critical to attracting jobs in the Trades District.
“The number one question is, ‘Where is the parking?’” Coyne said.
The further away people have to park, the further they away they will go to seek jobs, Coyne said.
Pete Yonkman, president of Cook Group Incorporated, urged the council to consider another factor, access to opportunity.
“Each one of those parking spaces represents opportunity for somebody to improve their life and their family’s life,” Yonkman said.
The council also brought up how building additional parking spaces could encourage the use of cars and affect climate change. Council member Dave Rollo noted that the parking garages have a lifespan of 50 years, yet transportation options are changing.
“We have to think about a future that is likely going to be very different from today,” Rollo said.
However, council member Chris Sturbaum acknowledged the importance of addressing the needs of today, which for many people, involves the use of a car.
The council voted 5-4 to postpone the vote to Dec. 5.
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