Chris Sturbaum lives about block away from where he grew up in Prospect Hill. Now, he’s using his experience as a longtime Bloomington resident to represent the city as someone who knows it inside and out.
“I’ve just got these deep roots in this area,” he said.
Sturbaum, 66, is running for his fifth term for Bloomington City Council’s District 1 seat. Throughout his 16 years on the council, he’s worked for what he calls the “odds and ends of city government,” from planning the convention center expansion to adding gender identity to Bloomington’s human rights protections.
But what he is most passionate about improving is historic preservation and affordable housing through the city’s zoning regulations.
His father, who was a teacher, bought a fixer-upper house for his wife and five children, including Sturbaum. It was not in the best condition because that was all they could afford, Sturbaum said, but they repaired it.
Throughout the years, he and his father fixed up neighboring homes, too, many of which were more than 100 years old and desperately in need of repair.
Sturbaum, who has owned Golden Hands Construction company for more than 30 years, said he uses his experience fixing houses to understand the importance of historic preservation and economic development.
Sturbaum said Bloomington was a significantly different place before it had zoning regulations.
“It was a wild and disorganized time,” he said. “You could build anything, do anything.”
Sturbaum said the importance of zoning is so the city can balance its growing population with maintaining affordable single-family residential neighborhoods.
Local artist Veda Stanfield, Sturbaum’s friend and client, said she is also concerned with maintaining the integrity of single-family housing and historic neighborhoods.
Stanfield used to live in one of Bloomington’s oldest neighborhoods on the west side. But over the years, several of the houses were turned into rental properties that she said were poorly maintained and unaffordable.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Stanfield said.
Eventually, she moved back into the neighborhood after she found a restored house that she thought had a rich history. Sturbaum and his construction company built an art studio for Stanfield in the backyard and have helped with renovations through the years.
Stanfield said it is important for the council to have representatives like Sturbaum who respect the core neighborhoods but also are willing to expand other areas of the city so the population can grow.
Sturbaum said affordable housing is an issue everyone should be concerned about.
“I’m sounding the alarm about that right now,” he said.
The solution to issues caused by the city’s growing population will be complex, he said, but he thinks new ideas should be carefully implemented on a case-by-case basis.
“We need to learn how to add without subtracting,” he said.
Ultimately, Sturbaum said he wants to continue to make Bloomington a place where people want to stay and build their lives, just as he has.
“If we create quality of life through the B-Line, through the markets, through the parks, through downtown, through all of those things, then it makes people want to come and make their businesses here and make their lives here,” he said.