Mayor Mark Kruzan wasted no time enlisting his most influential aides in John Fernandez's mission to replace Ladyman's Cafe with a five-story office building for his medical marketing firm.
By 9 a.m. on June 5, three days after Kruzan met with Vice President John Fernandez and other executives from Finelight Strategic Marketing Communications, the mayor had assembled a cadre of top administration officials dubbed "Team Finelight."
Among the outcomes of the group's first meeting, according to a mayoral intern's e-mail memo on the June 7 "Team Finelight Meeting #1": "Danise, Susan Clark, Doris Sims, James McNamara, and Ron Walker will discuss what options the City has to finance a parking garage on Fourth Street."
Danise Alano is Kruzan's assistant director for economic development, McNamara his deputy mayor, Walker his director for economic development.
The intern's e-mail, which listed "a few notes from yesterday's Finelight meeting" in the Showers Building Hooker Room, went to Walker, Alano, City Plan Director Tom Micuda, City Parks Director Mick Renneisen and Assistant City Attorney Susan Failey.
Top-shelf administration officials came away from the meeting with specific duties, according to the memo.
- Renneisen had the "difficult task of touching bases with John Fernandez and brainstorming on possible ways BCT and Finelight can work together." BCT, the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, is adjacent to the Ladyman's building.
- Alano was to "work with John Fernandez as well as current tenants to determine any way we can be of any assistance to them."
- Micuda had been "asked what he wants to be done about the possible height problem. His reply was to do a block rendering of area between Washington and Kirkwood on Walnut. Nothing fancy, just for the sake of scale."
- Failey "was asked to check on whether or not the sidewalk on Washington Street belonged to the City or not and to determine the property lines."
She was also charged with finding "consultants for fast parking garage projects."
Additional documents acquired by The Bloomington Alternative through a Public Records Request include the agenda for a June 2 meeting at Finelight headquarters attended by Kruzan, Walker, Fernandez and Finelight's owner Sherman Rogers and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Todd.
At that meeting, Fernandez and Finelight laid out their plans to demolish the Ladyman's building, which housed two other profitable local businesses — Roadworthy Guitar & Amps and Greek's Pizzeria — and a Shalom House annex that feeds the homeless. The Monroe County Democratic Party's headquarters are located on the property's Washington Street side.
Fernandez plans to replace those businesses with an $8.9 million office building for his company.
A "Finelight Project Summary" presented to Walker at a March 29 meeting says the company wants the city to provide a "10-year tax abatement for real & personal property investment," "support/advocacy for necessary demolition work," "financial assistance for tenant relocations" and "fee waivers for city utilities and county building permits."
Finelight said it needs a new parking garage with 150 spaces and projected the cost at $4.25 million.
"Obviously, we think that having a multi-use parking structure on the City's current surface lot to the south would be of mutual benefit to the downtown community and Finelight," Fernandez said in an April 28 e-mail to Walker. "If we can help make that happen via a design, build, lead project, we want to pursue it."
Just seven months before the Kruzan/Finelight face-to-face, Finelight purchased a luxury business jet for $27 million, according to the Web site of Bombardier Aircraft, which manufactured and sold the jet to Finelight.
Yet, in underlined text, Finelight said in its Project Summary: "The project we envision can only happen if the City of Bloomington joins with Finelight in making new investments that can enhance downtown Bloomington."
On June 30, Fernandez met with Walker, Alano and Lisa Abbott, director of the city's Housing and Neighborhood Development department. Alano took notes on details Fernandez laid out about the plan.
The building, she wrote, would be 41,000 square feet, with an 8,000 square-foot footprint, 5,000 on the lower level, have 25 percent retail and have "four full floors" and "1/2 step back."
Alano's notes set an 11-month timetable for the project. The Ladyman's building would be demolished next January, and Fernandez will move into his new building in December 2007. She wrote that Finelight "wants a connection to garage."
As for the garage, Alano wrote, "Communication re: who's building garage and for what purpose"
An attached document called "Kirkwood Place Development Schedule" called for "schematic/concepting" to be ongoing from October to December 2006, bidding and permitting to occur from April to June 2007 and site prep/construction to begin in June.
Alano's handwritten note at the bottom says, "if architects design in October, in sync w/ academic cycle."
Three weeks later, on July 7, Walker and Alano and Vickie Renfro, an attorney from the city legal department, met with Fernandez and local real estate developer Travis Vencel, who unsuccessfully sought a Democratic nomination for County Council in 2002.
Alano's notes of that meeting lay out a 20-month timeline and addressed city procedures, such as the role that the City Council will play in the project.
Fernandez was "at minimum" six months away from demolishing the Ladyman's building, the notes say. Roadworthy would move between "Aug/October."
The Democratic Party would move to "RW space." (An Alternative e-mail request for clarification was not answered.)
As for "size," Alano's notes say "bigger than Regester site; about the same size as 7th and Walnut."
Former City Councilman Jim Regester sold the Ladyman's building to Fernandez' development company, Heartland Development, which will demolish Ladyman's and build the office building for Fernandez' medical marketing firm.
The city's Regester parking lot at Seventh and College is named after his family.
The notes set Oct. 2 and 18 as relevant dates for the City Council: "Council staff not required by council re: ground lease but operations lease needs council approval."
Steven Higgs can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.