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City starts public discussion on hospital site redevelopment at virtual town hall Tuesday



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Doug Voigt, designer and planner from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, discusses the scale of the hospital site project and how it can be used to reflect Bloomington’s values during a town hall discussion June 18. The discussion was the first of four that will be held. Lilly St. Angelo

The city had the first of four public discussions about the IU Health Bloomington Hospital site redevelopment process on Zoom on Tuesday evening.

The city bought the 24-acre hospital site in 2018 after IU Health decided to build the IU Health Regional Academic Health Center, where the hospital will move in 2021. The future of the site is undetermined but is anticipated to have various features including housing, green space, retail and possibly a community center.

Designer and planner Doug Voigt from the architecture and urban planning firm heading the project, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, presented the broad vision for the site including incorporating the theme of health and wellness into the future plan to honor the hospital’s former presence there.

Voigt talked about the location of the site on the B-Line and how it’s sandwiched between the neighborhoods of Prospect Hill and McDoel Gardens. These geographic factors will influence what is planned for the site, and neighborhood associations will be involved in the discussion, committee members said.

More than 200 people were consulted in stakeholder meetings by the architecture and urban planning firm in May, including community leaders, businesses and people who live around the site. The firm is now drawing up a report of these meetings.

“The more people that are involved, the more conversations we have, the more the planners can focus in on what our community values are,” said Vi Simpson, former Indiana senator and co-chair of the Hospital Reuse Committee. 

The main hospital building will be demolished before the property is turned over to the city. Soil remediation will also be done by IU Health if dangerous substances are found.

The city is keeping the existing parking garage for the time being, and the Kohr Administration Building building may remain as well depending on the city’s ability to repurpose it.

The administration building is the oldest part of the hospital, making it a structure the city may preserve, but the possible presence of asbestos may make it difficult to renovate and repurpose.

The New Hope Family Shelter and the ambulance service center will both move to new locations as both are on the hospital site.

Five acres of the land are currently occupied by the hospital, and 10 acres are occupied by surface parking. All of this will be transformed.

Community members were able to ask questions in the second part of the meeting. One asked about the possibility of a culture center, and another asked about the possibility of a large auditorium.

The Hospital Reuse Committee, composed of community members and leaders, and the Project Review Committee, made up of elected officials, members of the HRC and city officials, will be looking into what is needed in Bloomington in terms of buildings, green spaces and housing.

The committees will also take into consideration the report from the Urban Land Institute, a team of land-use and urban planning experts that visited Bloomington in 2018 and wrote up a report of recommendations after talking to stakeholders. Its recommendations included using the site for retail, residential and office space as well as possibly building a community center.

“It’s not going to be a single-use district,” Voigt said. “By that I mean, it’s not going to be a mega development.”

Mayor John Hamilton said the development on the hospital site may be more organic than large and all at once.

“I think one of the goals may be smaller-scale, messier development here,” Hamilton said.

The mayor talked about how the planning committees will have to weigh the potential higher costs of using many small developers to develop the space and the relatively lower cost of using one developer to build more units at once. This especially will apply to the construction of affordable housing, which the city is planning to include within the site.

The cost of the hospital site redevelopment could total $100 million according to the ULI report, which includes public and private sector money. This would be over the course of a decade of development. Committee members said there will be more talk of costs at the next public meeting. 

The mayor talked about the project as an investment for Bloomington and mentioned how the city had already used public money to buy the site for $6.5 million.

“That’s how cities invest in the future,” Hamilton said. “That’s how Bloomington has grown from the beginning, is public investment in infrastructure and amenities and public space to help other investments come to build the momentum to what we want to see.”

The next public meeting about the hospital site redevelopment will be in late July or early August. The date will be posted on the project website when it is determined. There is also a survey residents can take on the website to provide input.

“Be a dreamer with us, and throw out your best ideas,” Simpson told community members. “We want your ideas and your creativity.”

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