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Bloomington City Council Considers Approving 4th Street Garage Reconstruction

Members of the public sitting in city hall.

Bloomington's Deputy Mayor says the new structure would be open before the end of 2020 if the city pursues the option to rebuild the garage. (Alex Eady, WTIU/WFIU News)

In a preliminary vote Wednesday night, Bloomington city council members were split on whether to fund the construction of a new Fourth Street parking garage. Three councilmembers abstained from voting.

City leaders are asking the council to support the project.

The council initially voted against demolishing and reconstructing the garage in December, but councilmembers are now debating if an alternative repair plan will be too short-sighted.

During Wednesday's meeting, councilmembers weighed the options and listened to more than an hour of public feedback. CFC Properties president Jim Murphy says access to parking has a direct impact on downtown business.

"Parking is so valuable, and if we do not provide parking necessary, it is going to have an impact on businesses. It’s going to have an impact on the community, it’s going to have an impact on the tourism downtown," says Murphy.

Some residents shared the concerns of council member Allison Chopra, who opposes building a newer bigger garage when the parking options downtown are sufficient.

"If you’re unwilling to walk, one or two tenths of a mile, then there’s not a problem," says Chopra. "People in cities do it all the time." 

The city proposes using an $18.5 million tax revenue bond to acquire, demolish, and construct a new garage with a maximum of 550 parking spaces. Bloomington Deputy Mayor Mick Renniessen says the goal is to issue the bonds, if approved, in conjunction with the $10 million in bonds the council previously approved for the construction of the downtown Trades District garage.

By coordinating the construction of both projects, the city hopes to save an estimated $1 million.

A report from structural engineers completed in February of 2019 revealed that the true cost of repairs to the Fourth Street Garage would be nearly $1.6 million after accounting for soft costs and inspection services.

Public works director Adam Wason says the garage has rapidly deteriorated since the initial structural analysis conducted last May, hiking the estimated repair cost by nearly 25 percent. Wason says the city has been reviewing their operational maintenance with other downtown garages to ensure they aren’t in this same situation again.

The council will take a final vote on the proposal next week. 

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated two councilmembers chose to abstain. It has been corrected. 

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