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Ask The Mayor: Bloomington's Hamilton On Convention Space; Density

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton

The city and county move forward on convention center expansion, will the mayor's downtown density ordinance hurt economic development, what's next for the city's parking commission and events that helped shape Bloomington in 2017.

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: Let’s start with the convention center, right now it’s moving forward – what’s next?

Hamilton: So the passage of the food and beverage tax begins the funding mechanism. The next step is to identify a hotelier. But this is a fifty year project for the community so we gotta get it right. We'll be working with the county and other interested parties. It's a complicated process with city land and county land, and private land. I do think it's a great opportunity to have this downtown.

Hren: There’s a new ordinance being proposed that would limit height and density of a growing downtown. That doesn’t seem to match or send a strong message to developers about a convention center, the Trades District or redevelopment of the IU Health Bloomington Hospital. Does your desire for this convention center somewhat conflict with your thoughts for downtown development though?

Hamilton: I don't think so, I think they really work together well. The fundamental is this, we're working with a zoning code that is 15 years old. We know we're going to get a new code probably in 2018 and the transition period is tricky.

So what we tried to get in place is a transition, interim UDO (Unified Development Ordinance) that will help us ensure that in the next 12 months or whatever it takes, we don't want to have a bunch of building happen that will not be consistent with the direction we all believe we're headed.

I believe Bloomington needs good density and good quality buildings. This is not a provision that we don't want height or we don't want density. What this is, is we don't want you to build a really high building or very dense building automatically with no control from the city side.

Hren: Anthony on Twitter asks, “Has the idea of sealing Kirkwood from Indiana to Dunn or Washington Street ever been considered?" #paversandlandscaping

Hamilton: Yes, the question of Kirkwood - our beautiful city street, comes up all the time. We've had instances of closing the street for Nick's anniversary or a city demonstration, so there's a lot of appeal with having a more pedestrian Kirkwood. Though there are people that worry what would that do to the businesses there, the mobility. Kirkwood's not a through street, so that's helpful to remember. I think it's a topic people can keep thinking about.

Hren: Sue emails in, "Please address the problem of double parking by delivery trucks that block traffic at multi unit buildings."

Hamilton: Well and that's a real big problem during Christmas time. We always try to balance that. This is a vibrant growing city full of commerce and delivery trucks come in and out. We're always open to suggestions on how to make that as easy to do as possible.

Hren: I'm referring to a H-T story on the parking commission’s first report. It says the meter revenue is not enough to subsidize garages and other parking maintenance – but yet we hear from business owners that Bloomington has some of the most expensive parking in the state. Is it normal for a city to eat up parking costs?

Hamilton: Most city's invest money in parking, we are in the midst of a major parking review study. And we know people are changing how they use cars. We do subsidize it, should we keep subsidizing it, how much should we do it, how much should parkers pay for everything is really part of a big mix of a study we'll talk about in 2018.

Hren: The downtown parking meter lease is paid off in 2018. Will that bring in more money to the city and what's next?

Hamilton: It is a new net revenue, we're still studying the meters and how they work. I'm not satisfied yet that we have that under control. This parking study will help us look at all those factors together.

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