In order to help settle the Bloomington Area Arts Council’s six-figure debt obligation, the city of Bloomington has agreed to temporarily purchase the John Waldron Arts Center. The city will buy the assets of the building and take over its deed for 150-thousand dollars — far less than the space and its contents are worth. In exchange, the Bloomington Area Arts Council agrees to pay off its debt within 30 days and allow the city to find a new owner for the building, which once served as city hall. But Mayor Mark Kruzan said despite the fact the city is buying the space at a fraction of its value and intends to re-sell it, he doesn’t expect the city will turn a profit.
“I would like to recover the value of the assets and repay whatever account is used to pay that $150,000,” Kruzan said. “The city’s never expected a profit from this facility.”
Kruzan said as many as three groups have been considered as possible purchasers of the Waldron, but adds the new owner will have to agree to certain deed obligations, including keeping significant space reserved for the arts and allowing radio station WFHB, which operates out of the ground floor, to continue to lease the space. But the mayor said a new owner is likely to raise the rent on the station, which collects money largely from grants and public donations. WFHB General Manager Will Murphy said he hopes his station will be granted a deed to its part of the Waldron property, saying a potentially large increase in rent could eviscerate the station.
“It doesn’t do us much good to have a guarantee that we’re staying here if the rent is 10 times what we’re paying now,” Murphy said. “We’re operating on a shoestring budget as it is, operating entirely on volunteer effort, aside from three full-time members and two part-time staff members. So, increasing our rent by ten times? Any organization would understand that that’s not a viable plan for the future.”
Murphy says WFHB currently pays 125 dollars a month in rent, as well as paying for its own utilities, aside from water. Mark Kruzan says he’d like to have a new owner in place by summer.