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City of Bloomington not acting as landlord for parking garage retail space

Fourth Street Garage

(Ethan Burks, WFIU/WTIU News)

In December 2018, the Bloomington City Council unanimously supported a plan to repair the Fourth Street Parking Garage. But a structural analysis report estimated a five-year repair plan for the garage would cost nearly $1.6 million, almost $300,000 more than projected. 

The garage closed to parking Jan. 2, 2019. In April the same year, the council changed direction and voted 5-3 to demolish and replace it. Then-council president Dave Rollo supported the project.   

“I’m certain we need to replace it because when I talk to businesses, they need predictability,” Rollo said. “They don’t know if this garage is going to be open in a few months, in a half a year, within a few years.”  

In March 2020, the city plan commission approved a garage design with almost 540 parking spaces. The old garage only had about 350 spaces. 

READ MORE: City Approves 4th Street Garage Plans, Adds Nearly 200 Spaces

Flash forward to October 2021, and the garage’s parking services and bike storage are fully operational. 

“I think it’s huge, especially as more and more folks are returning to work,” City of Bloomington public works director Adam Wason said. “Even during COVID we were hearing, you know, that there was still a parking crunch downtown.” 

Wason said the new garage will have at least 100 parking spots available for hourly customers. The remaining 440 spots are permitted spots for downtown business employees.  

Some permits will be for a 12-hour window Monday through Friday, while others will be open 24/7. However, Wason said most of the permit spots are sold out.  

Although parking services are operational, additional amenities included in the garage’s design, like public restrooms, have not reached fruition. Wason said the restrooms will open within the next two weeks.

“The retail spaces are continuing to be built out, as well as the office space,” he said. “And there is an arts component that’s still coming in the next, we’re hopeful next 60-90 days.” 

While the city owns the garage, it will contract 7,200 square feet of retail and commercial space on ground level to local property management groups. Wason said this is because city government does several things, but being a landlord is not one of its areas of expertise. 

Previously, the city contracted with Grant Properties for the building directly north of the convention center at 216 S College Ave. Wason said the new retail spaces will be a similar situation. 

“There haven’t been any leases on the commercial spaces yet,” he said. “We’re using a commercial broker to try and market and advertise those spaces.” 

Local commercial manager and broker Chris Cockerham with F.C. Tucker Realtors is marketing the rental units. 

However, the Fourth Street Garage is not managed in the same way as the parking garage at the intersection of Seventh Street and Walnut Avenue.  

“That garage was built in cooperation and partnership with that major property development back in the day,” Wason said.   

Wininger Stolberg Property Group owns and manages the retail space underneath the Walnut Street Garage, including Yogi’s and Homey Hot Pot.  

While no businesses have expressed interest in moving into the retail space in the Fourth Street Garage, Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce president Erin Predmore said downtown businesses have already felt relief.  

“During construction, with that huge amount of parking that came offline, a lot of businesses struggled with having consistent parking available for their customers and their employees,” she said.  

erin predmore
Erin Predmore is the current president of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. (Indiana Public Media file photo)

Predmore said COVID-19 and the lack of available parking added stress to businesses over the last two years.   

“We did see some businesses decide to move locations because of the strain on their business without the parking garage,” she said.  

Predmore said a lot of people were unaware parking was free when the garage opened in August. However, she expects more people will use it in the coming months as they relearn about its existence and use.  

READ MORE: Fourth Street Parking Garage Begins Charging Fares

“That ease of parking really does add to that vibrancy for downtown,” she said. “And really does allow us to have a really condensed downtown that is enjoyable for everybody.” 

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