None of Bloomington’s three Democratic mayoral candidates like the direction downtown Bloomington has taken in recent years. And they use some pretty damning language to convey those sentiments.
John Hamilton says it’s “ugly.” John Linnemeier says the streets north of the Downtown Square have been transformed into “unattractive canyons.” City Councilman Darryl Neher says he will stand against “rampant development” to protect the Square’s “quality and character.”"Most of the apartments are owned by out-of-town corporations that suck millions of dollars out of our community.” - John Linnemeier, Democratic mayoral candidate
City Councilman Neher is completing his first term and has served as council president in 2013 and 2014. On his website and in written answers to questions from the League of Women Voters of Bloomington & Monroe County (LWV), he said pledged a new direction.
“Bloomington has become a magnet for out-of-state developers motivated by profits,” he says on his website. “I will ensure our Growth Policies Plan and Unified Development Ordinance protect our neighborhoods and city core.”
Linnemeier, whose website says he will post his position on downtown development soon, casts his objections more sharply.
“Most of the apartments are owned by out-of-town corporations that suck millions of dollars out of our community,” he said in his LWV questionnaire. “With practically no setbacks and hideous architecture, they’re nothing but cash-cows for people with no interest in Bloomington.”
Linnemeier said policies to attract residential housing to revive the downtown and limit urban sprawl was a noble one that has gone awry.
"Recent projects like the proposed ‘Graduate’ hotel are not appropriate to the iconic downtown." - John Hamilton, Democratic mayoral candidate
“It was a good idea for students to live close to campus, not in residential neighborhoods,” he said. “Sadly, though, the execution of these policies has been inconsistent.”
Hamilton calls the student housing “concrete canyons” on his website] and calls for stricter guidelines to hold them in check.
Online and on the LWV questionnaire, he says Bloomington’s distinction as one of “America’s most beautiful cities” is at risk. The “overconcentration of high-end student housing” and 146-room hotel recently approved by the City Plan Commission for the Old National Bank building on Kirkwood Avenue are decisions that will degrade downtown’s character.
“Recent projects like the proposed ‘Graduate’ hotel are not appropriate to the iconic downtown,” he wrote in his LWV questionnaire.
Hamilton promised action to protect Bloomington’s “unique aesthetic” with a local historic designation for the Downtown Square to prevent future encroachment.
“Fifty years from now, people standing at the intersection of Walnut and Kirkwood should be able to look down Kirkwood Avenue along a beautiful, historic corridor and see the Sample Gates and IU’s front door,” he says on his website.
Hamilton vowed to pursue aesthetic and environmental policies to “curb new development that undermine the downtown with ‘ugly’ development.”
"Bloomington has become a magnet for out-of-state developers motivated by profits.” - Darryl Neher, Democratic mayoral candidate
In response to the LWV questions, Neher said the focus should be on enhancing the community’s economic vitality, which he said can be accomplished in three ways.
“Stand up against rampant growth to protect the quality and character of our downtown square, Kirkwood corridor, and our neighborhoods,” he said, citing legislation he initiated that would expand council authority for “height waiver requests” of the sort that allowed the hotel to be approved.
He also would promote a sustainable economy committed to local businesses and foster a “culture of entrepreneurship” to attract and retain the community’s next generation of leaders, as well as cultivate quality of life by investing in parks, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, sustainable energy infrastructure, the arts, and social services.
Linnemeier said the community should turn to local developers, like CFC, which has an “honorable track record” of putting the community’s needs over profit.
“We should work with companies like CFC, who seem willing to create a more diverse downtown community, not just a student ghetto,” he said. “We need to ensure that no more small, unique, locally owned businesses like Max’s and Ladyman’s be pushed out of the downtown by franchise businesses.”