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Ask The Mayor: Bloomington's Hamilton On Convention Center Stalemate, Scooters

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Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

City leaders are figuring out how to deal with a new scooter rental service, Fourth Street parking garage is deteriorating quickly and the stalemate continues on how to proceed with the hotel and convention center expansion.

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Hren: I wanted to jump in with the new scooters that arrived in town called ‘Bird’ – it’s an app based scooter rental service, but the city knew this company was dropping these off without any prior notice and asked for a warning, but they still did – have there been any complaints or concerns?

Hamilton: It's interesting. It's more of this changing of this mobility stuff. We have bike shares, those weren't around ten years ago. And this is a new thing, these electric scooters. There are some concerns about these.

One, it's good to be a community that a company like this wants to come. Two, the bottom line is any basic things we can do to help people move around that doesn't depend on big passenger automobiles, is a good thing. The regulatory oversight of these is to be worked out. They're meant to be ridden with a helmet, they can be ridden on the B-Line.

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The scooters are not permitted on sidewalks, but may be docked on bike racks. (Tyler Lake, WTIU/WFIU News)

Hren: Convention center progress seems to still be on hold. Last I know, everyone involved is waiting for a Memorandum of Understanding – are versions being swapped around for review now?

Hamilton: It's frustrating. The immediate pressure is we have architects that are ready to make their pitch and this joint steering committee has been put on pause. We're working with the county to get a draft we can all sign. There's a dispute about the hotelier between the city and county with the county wanting to go with a hotelier that they identified last year. We believe that process needs to be opened up and redone in a better way.

Hren: There was a guest column in the H-T from John Whikehart who’s on the convention center commission. He says, the county should move on with or without the mayor and hope he’ll come to the table, how do you respond?

Hamilton: John's a good friend and I respectfully disagree with his characterization of the situation. The convention center will be paid for by the city essentially through the food and beverage tax. The hotel which is a key partner - we don't know where the hotel will be situated. It may be situated on land that's owned by the county now, it may be situated on land that's owned by the city now. 

The county did a process to find a partner with the hotel to help them determine whether a convention center could theoretically be built. And the answer is yes, but we have multiple hoteliers including the one we already heard from, who want to do this and the city's view is we need a good process to identify that hotelier. 

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Early proposed scheme of a hotel and convention center expansion

Joe: The Urban Land Institute recently came out with data on developing what will be the former IU Health Hospital. It states office occupancy rate is 95 percent indicating a shortage of supply, how can the city still put in place good restrictions, but make it inviting for developers to build here?

Hamilton: In a way, maybe it's easy to describe and hard to do. We want to be in a city where investors want to come. We want development, but we want the right development. That's easy to say, we working very hard to create new office energy and ecosystem in the Trades District that will focus on significantly focus on expanding downtown office space. 

We're also encouraging significant housing investment downtown and around the city, but it's got to be the right kind. But we're growing, a thousand people a year are coming to Bloomington, we just have to manage that growth right.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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