'Behind the Scenes'
When Kruzan administration officials discussed public input for the Finelight Strategic Marketing Communications plan to replace Ladyman's Cafe and other Kirkwood-and-Washington businesses with an office building, their inclination was for less, not more.
In an Aug. 23 e-mail to a vacationing Mayor Mark Kruzan, Plan Director Tom Micuda laid out the options.
The Finelight plan, which called for its own five-story headquarters to replace Ladyman's, would get public scrutiny at the Redevelopment Commission and City Council levels, due to its parking garage "partnership aspect," Micuda wrote.
"As for the Plan Commission, there is no requirement that I take their site plan to the Commission," he continued. "The code gives me some discretionary leverage to take a site plan to the Commission, but I've only used this discretion on downtown projects once before: with Smallwood. I'd prefer not to use this discretion unless absolutely necessary."
Behind the Scenes
City officials and executives at Finelight Strategic Marketing Communications hoped to have wrecking balls blocking traffic at Kirkwood and Washington this month. The plan was to demolish the building that has housed Ladyman's Cafe, Roadworthy Guitar & Amp, Greek's Pizzaria and a Shalom House kitchen for the homeless and replace it with a five-story office building to house Finelight's national headquarters.
Finelight wanted millions in public subsidies and financial breaks for a parking garage and other perks, like its own covered walkway from the garage to the building. Handwritten notes from a July 20 meeting between Kruzan administration and Finelight officials addressed timing — "20 month timeframe" and "at min. 6 mos away from demo."
Along the way, however, public outrage at the deal delivered some blows to the plan. On Dec. 16, The Herald-Times reported new Finelight plans for a scaled-down building that would not house its headquarters. And for the past few weeks a sign on the building has listed a telephone number for information on short-term leases.
In the waning days of 2006, Finelight Vice President John Fernandez, who spearheaded the project, left both Finelight and Heartland Development Group, which owns the property and will develop it.
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.
Had Dana Reynolds known what Mark Kruzan knew last March, Ladyman's Cafe might have had a chance to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year as the institution that, for generations of Hoosiers, is a historic, cherished part of the Bloomington experience.
Notes taken by Ron Walker, Kruzan's director for economic development, at a March 29 meeting with representatives from Finelight Strategic Marketing Communications say: "Finelight has total control of Wash/Kirkwood," the location from which Ladyman's has served up eggs and hash browns to a diverse, colorful customer base of locals, students and alumni since 1957.
Walker's hand-written notes do not say who attended that meeting. But, referring to Finelight owner Sherman Rogers, they conclude: "Sherman is interested in sitting with Mayor and giving his update. Do this after 4/12. Mon and Fri are best in the afternoons."
Kruzan's mayoral predecessor, Democrat John Fernandez, is a Finelight vice president. He is also president of Heartland Development Group, a separate company that plans to demolish Ladyman's and replace it with a five-story, brick-and-glass office building.