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City council reconsiders, passes plan for new off-campus student housing


Bloomington City Council member Dorothy Granger discusses her opposition to a proposal Sept. 4 to build a new apartment complex. The proposal was rejected in a 5-3-1 vote Sept. 4, but the council gathered for a special meeting Monday to discuss and approve it, 5-3. Joy Burton

The Bloomington City Council reconsidered and passed a previously failed ordinance for a new off-campus apartment complex for students in a 5-3 vote Monday night.

Ordinance 19-12 will rezone 3.85 acres of property at 1800 N. Walnut St. for a planned unit development. St. Louis-based Collegiate Development Group will build an apartment complex at the site, with room for 750 people and complete with study rooms, an outdoor pool, a fitness center and a parking garage. Rent per person will be between about $800 and $1,000 each month.

Construction will begin next year, and the complex will be ready for residents for the 2022-23 school year, said Brandt Stiles, a Collegiate Development Group representative who presented the plans to the council.

The development group has made preliminary plans with Bloomington Transit to fund a new public bus route between the complex and the IU campus. The entire project will cost about $2.46 million.

At a Sept. 4 city council meeting, the ordinance failed in a 5-3-1 vote. Council members Stephen Volan and Chris Sturbaum said they felt the vote was too abrupt and wanted to have this meeting to consider the decision more thoroughly.

“We can make this a better project,” Sturbaum said.

Council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith voted no for the ordinance Sept. 4 but voted yes at the second meeting.

She said she was most excited for the development company to fund a bus route because Bloomington Transit is limited in its funding for operations.

“We need other sources of funding for Bloomington Transit,” she said. “This is a revolutionary way to fund transit.”

Piedmont-Smith also said the property in question was a good place to accommodate a large number of people.

Council member Dorothy Granger, who voted against the ordinance both times, disagreed.

“I do believe it is valuable property for housing, just not this kind of housing,” she said. “We need housing, but what we need is affordable housing. This project is not affordable.”

Granger said many students come to IU and don’t realize how expensive off-campus housing can be.

“It frustrates me that we’re building all these apartments for rich students,” she said.

Granger also reemphasized her problem with displacing the residents of Motel 6 without a plan on where to house them.

Council member Andy Ruff took issue with the project’s scale.

“I don’t think this is a necessary scale to get bedrooms in this community in a way that’s consistent with our community character and with our community members’ wishes,” he said.

Volan voted no Sept. 4 but changed his stance at the second meeting. He said the revisions to the plan helped him decide. The revisions included completing a sidewalk network south of the complex on Walnut Street to 19th Street and between Walnut to Dunn streets on 19th Street.

Sturbaum abstained from voting Sept. 4 but voted yes Monday. He acknowledged there were many close calls. He said the council turned down two other apartment complexes of similar scale this year.

“There is a supply and demand for student housing, and we need to get more beds in this community,” he said.

Many council members acknowledged a degree of public good this project could provide, such as expanded housing, the new bus service and completed sidewalks.

“This is a very important project to our organization, and we’re excited to be a member of the community,” Stiles said.

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