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What Will Redevelopment Of The IU Health Hospital Site Mean For Downtown Bloomington?

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: This is noon edition on WFIU. I'm your host Bob Zaltsberg cohosting with WFIU News Bureau Chief Sara Wittmeyer. This week we're talking about redevelopment of the IU Health Bloomington Hospital on West Second Street here in Bloomington. And we have three guests with us today on the program. Mick Renneisen is here is the city of Bloomington, deputy mayor and head staff member of the IU Hospital Reuse Committee. Isabel Piedmont-Smith is a city council member who represents District five. That includes a lot of this area. And Frank Nierzwicki Jr. is an O'Niel School of Public and Environmental Affairs clinical assistant professor. You can join us on Twitter at noon edition and send us questions there. And you can also send us questions for the show at News at Indiana Public Media dot org. We're doing the show over Zoom. So, of course, you can't call in with your questions today. So thank you all for being here. I think you've all been on the program before. And we welcome you all back. So I want to to start with Mick today. Micke Renneisen, what is the current plan. I know we've had some - I know your consultants of have given you a plan. You've talked to lots of people. So what are we looking at this point? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: Yeah, thanks for the opportunity to share with the community. We were out on this exciting project. It's very rarely in the city's history To have the opportunity to redevelop 24 acres in your downtown acres that have been used for health care use for more than 100 years, so we recognize this is a unique snapshot in time for our community. And we've been very, I think, purposeful and thoughtful about how we approach the planning process to date. What actually - rewind to six years ago, the previous administration, when IU Health acknowledged that they were going to have moved from their site downtown and surprises about six years ago, and instead of going west, they went east. Now we can all see the result of that project as it nears completion on the east side on forty six, on their near and on the old golf course driving range. In fact, of Indiana University, back six years ago, Mayor Kruzan formed a hospital reuse committee to start exploring planning for the eventual move and redevelopment of the hospital site. That committee exists today, Mayor Hamilton has expanded it to a group of over 30 individuals that have been guiding us along the way as we've taken a variety of forms of public engagement to come up with the plan that we presented to the city council on November 18th and to the redevelopment commission in January. And I'd point out that that 30 person committee, chaired by former Senator Bob Simpson and Mayor Hamilton and includes council member Piedmont's Smith and others on it, has been instrumental and will be instrumental as the project develops over time. So these projects take a long time. We're six years into it and we have had two plans, actually, that will guide us in the future. The first was an Urban Land Institute design process that we completed in 2018. And then the most recent plan that fleshes out a lot more detail about how the site can develop over time. So I could continue to talk you into the conversation. I'm happy to talk about some of the principles of the plan. There were - I guess maybe that's a good starting point and others can react as you see fit. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah, I think that I think it would be good if you could just sort of give us just a a real - I don't know, a sixty thousand foot view of what you think will be there when it's all completed. 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: Yeah, absolutely. But that's a good starting point. So I think there are eight basic - or nine basic principles that came out of the master planning process. We know our community believes that this should be a site for a variety of housing types. We certainly acknowledge within those housing types we need a lot of affordable workforce housing as our community is sorely lacking in that area. And even this project won't allow us to catch up on the demand, but it'll go potentially a long way to helping with that need. Another principle is making sure we have a lively mix of uses that that this site in our near downtown not only brings in its own new ideas and new engagement with our community, but it also folds into the surrounding neighborhoods that it supports the downtown as it's really very close to our growing downtown, that the street grid should be reconnected. Right now, it's a big, massive block with a large, very large hospital on it, of course. And New Street should be connected. And the fabric of those streets connects through to Second Street and First Street and the surrounding neighborhoods. And those streets should be designed with a people first street design. We certainly want to maintain the neighborhood scale at the edges as it went into Prospect Hill in the north and McDouall Gardens to the south. We want to add to the network of public spaces, this area sits uniquely near the Beeline trail near Seminary Park and Building Trades Park and only a half a mile from the new Switchard park. And we want to anchor those surrounding areas to the new development site as well. We think that this place can create health, civic life, learning workforce initiatives, emphasize our great arts and cultural amenities in our community, and facilitate and enable people to thrive in all of those areas in this new 24-acre site. And we want to be flexible because we cannot predict what the market will bring. Certainly none of us predicted we'd be in this pandemic that's now pushing almost a year. So we know that plans like this have to be flexible and adaptable in the future. And finally, we want to make sure that this site is designed with a new standard of sustainability. Again, going to do 24 acres in your near downtown only once every hundred years, you ought to do it right and with a forward focus on sustainability for the future. So those are the basic principles that came out of the public engagement steps in the master plan. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. So Councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith, you are - you have always stayed in touch with constituents. And so you've always talked to a lot of people. So I want to ask you this question from two perspectives. One, from your perspective on the committee and then two, from someone who's talked to, you know, a lot of citizens of the community, I'm sure, about this particular project, you know? What are the strengths, and are there any weaknesses that you would point to? 

>>ISABEL PIEDMONT-SMITH: Well, thank you for the question. I think it's a wonderful opportunity this project presents. And the strengths are many. I mean, (laughter) currently, we have a site that is almost all paved. And environmentally and also socially, this is a great opportunity because the plan calls for a green way that is - that goes east, west through the middle of where the hospital sits now. And I think that's going to do really improve our stormwater runoff problems that we've seen in the McDouall Gards neighborhood where I live and also just be a real amenity for people in this neighborhood and throughout the community, a street that will have residential housing on it and also some commercial space and lots of green areas to gather and to enjoy. So that's one big positive. Another one I'd like to mention is that for the streets that are contiguous to the site - so Roger's Second Street, First Street - there - the proposal calls for positive changes to those streets to make them much more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. Right now, I would not want to take my bike on West Second Street past Rogers, but this would - the proposal is to create a dedicated bike lane that's separated from traffic. And the sidewalks would also be separated by a tree plot from traffic. Put that street on a road diet to decrease speeds. And similar proposals are part of the project on Rogers and on First Street. So those are just a few of the positive things I see coming out of this. As Mick mentioned, affordable housing is something we expect to see as well. And that's something that many, many of my constituents have called for. People across the city are, of course, affected by the high price of housing. And it's been recognized as a problem we need to address. So this would certainly go a long way towards providing more options for people and at rates that they could afford. The downside - I don't know. I would just say that people fear change. So even two years ago, before the consultants did their work, I was hearing from a lot of constituents who just were worried about what might go in there, you know? They didn't want a Walmart in there or a big shopping center or student housing. Those are the things they did not want. But I'm hearing positive feedback from about the plan we have now where it really kind of extends the McDouall Gardens neighborhood from the south and the Prospect Hill neighborhood from the north, kind of melds those together some commercial space just on the busy corridor streets. But I think people are getting comfortable with the plan as they see it now. So I would say the negative is just, you know, people don't know what change will bring. And so they're uncertain about it. I think the plan has just recently come out. So people have also not had a lot of time to digest what it says. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Right. I would expect that one thing that you might hear - and I guess I would ask this to both you and Mick. For many years in this community, there was - one of the issues was needing more of an East-West corridor through the city, and this second street has been somewhat a corridor through the city. And now it sounds like the - this project would reduce its use as certainly for automobiles. How does this fit into the overall transportation plan that - and the motorized transportation as opposed to, you know, bicycle and pedestrian? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: I guess I would say that I don't think it's going to negatively impact the East-West corridor that Second Street is from the user's perspective of an automobile because while Isabel correctly said that there's some road diet planning, these roads were created decades ago with - obviously before people-first design became more in line with the way we live. And I believe in our community, certainly street design should be so it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to constrict automobile traffic. It's just going to better use the right of way to allow for all forms, all modes of transportation to occur. And while this destination may have a thousand units of housing on it at some point in time in the future - not all at once but probably over a decade, this will build out - it will probably not generate the same amount of traffic that the hospital did in and of itself. So different uses, different times of day, people will travel to and from their residences in this new area when it's developed out. Some of the multiuse things that will be there will be designed so that you don't necessarily have to get in your car to drive to them. You can walk or take these new connectors that Isabel mentioned, the Greenway piece being one of those that will connect you to B line to other areas. So, hopefully, it won't really cut off that necessary East-West arterial that Second Street has served. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Well, I want to bring Frank Nierzwicki in. He is with the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. So, Frank, when you think of a major redevelopment project like this one in a downtown area, I mean, what are some of the key elements that you would want to pay attention to? And, you know, you can speak specifically to this one, this plan or just in general for, you know, downtown redevelopment plans. 

>>FRANK NIERZWICKI JR: The one thing, Bob, I would say on this - at this plan and any plan, it's going to be a multiyear and maybe a multi-administration type of project. And I think Isabel said about some of the concerns about the neighbors - what's going to happen in the future. I think we could all tell that, you know, with COVID, change is really hard for people to see and understand. I think from this perspective, in this redevelopment plan, I have to compliment the city of Bloomington, the hospital and everyone involved. This is a very detailed plan for the area. I think from my perspective on this, I've just recently started looking at the plan in detail, and it is very impressive. A lot of information was the amount of public participation under COVID, which is a very difficult thing to do. I'm dealing with that with students right now. So I think it serves the neighborhood very, very well. I think the one thing that we will watch on this - and I think Mick has said a very good item about the connections between East-West - there is probably going to be some concern in the community about how this is going to divert traffic maybe to Third Street. But I would say with - some people I know quite closely disagreed with me. The example that the city had on a diet, on a roadway is close to where I live on East Third Street between College Mall Road and - not College Mall, I'm sorry, at the - from the mall out to 446, we all thought that was going to be a terrible bottleneck. But so far, it has not been. And I think from a perspective that - the city planning department with Scott Robinson as head will actually watch the traffic patterns and actually monitor there on - by the hospital area, the old hospital area on changes that may need to be tweaked in the future. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Sara, you have a question, right? 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: What is the timeline for this? I know we've talked about it being something that will happen over several years. But, Mick, can you just talk about the estimates for when things will be done, when we'll start to see progress at the site, things like that? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: Sure, Sara. Thank you for the question. I'm sure a lot of people want to know the answer to this one. And I would start by saying it is a multiphased, multi-year project. And we do believe the first logical phase - and I suppose I should back up and say that IU Health is transferring certain portions of the 24-acre site over to the city as they begin to declare them surplus. So we've gotten one small parcel, for example, on the - would be the East side of Rogers bounded by Second Street to the north, First Street to the south, and the B line trail to the east. So that section - we're starting to get parcels transferred over to us. And we won't own all of that probably through the end of this year. And then obviously, the main hospital site, which is the biggest part of the acreage, that will remain as a current hospital use until IU Health moves to the east side, which is still anticipated to be at the end of 2021. Because IU Health has to demolish that main parcel, that building and remediate the site so that we can redevelop it, we're looking at probably all of 2022 for that activity to occur before we could actually start development on that large parcel. So what we believe we'll start with is actually designing the public infrastructure on that block that's to the east of the main hospital site, now east of Rogers. And we believe we can initiate the - we'll go out with an RFI, RFQ request for information or a request for qualifications for a civil engineering design team to start laying out the public infrastructure. That's streets, bicycle lanes, utilities, gas lines, electric. All that will have to be reconfigured for the master plan's anticipated development according to those potential uses that will happen. And so we'll attack that phase first, hopefully by getting somebody on board to consult with us on the design services in the first two quarters of this year. Design will take somewhere between six to 10 months. And then potentially we could see some development in that quadrant next year, and that would make it ready for development by the private sector. And I think it's important to note that the city doesn't develop housing. The city doesn't build very many buildings unless they're public assets. Rather, we're going to have to partner with the private sector. And it won't be a master developed type of site. So in other words, it's not all going to happen at once with one big major developer coming in. It's going to happen piecemeal as we get the site turned over to us as the infrastructure is put into place and as the market allows for the uses to start to materialize. So the first phase, we believe, is that Eastern block. And we're very excited about that because that's the connection to the B line. That's that active, multiuse area that will include housing, some retail commercial. And then as we go to the west of Rogers, remember that there's two major assets the city was allowed to consider keeping on that block - the parking garage that's over 400 parking spaces and the core administration building, which is the original hospital that was then attached to over decades. And that building was just declared historic by Councilmember Piedmont-Smith and her colleagues just this past Wednesday. And we actually think that's an asset that will help us attract some low-income housing tax credits for that particular building. But we'll be working very hard on a parallel track this year to see if we can't find some development partner that will help us with the core building. So the next year's... 


>>MICK RENNEISEN: ...Work and this year's work are of kind of focusing on that, if you will. 

>>ISABEL PIEDMONT-SMITH: I just wanted to clarify, Mick, that this - the straw poll vote in favor of designating the core building was in a committee meeting. So we will have the final vote next week, I think. But it does look good that - (laughter) we seem to be all in favor of the historic designation. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Isabel, why is that important? Why is it important to keep that particular building? 

>>ISABEL PIEDMONT-SMITH: Well, it's a well-built, solid building. It is - also has historic value, I think. It's from 1947. It's in a late art deco style, and it's - I think it's art deco. I don't have my notes in front of me. But it's a - it, I think, is valuable to keep as a reminder of the history of Bloomington Hospital in our community. And it's also for sustainability sake, it's always best to reuse a building rather than tear down and build new. And I know Mick has been through that building many times with various engineers and architects and developers, and there is a potential there to reuse the building for other purposes. Hopefully, as Mike mentioned, with historic designation, there would be access to other financing options available. Also if it's affordable housing, which could be a good option in that building, there would also be credits available based on that plan. So I think - yeah, I just think it's a historical part of our community. It's part of our history. And it's, you know, Indiana limestone and well-designed, well-built. 



>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. 

>>ISABEL PIEDMONT-SMITH: ...Why I think it's good to keep it. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. And what about the parking garage? Our community has had great debate about various parking garages being built. Does it make sense? And why does it make sense to keep this one in place? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: That's a great question and an understandable question, and not just in terms of this particular redevelopment area, but just in general as we watch our world change in the future. So this particular structure has quite a bit of life left in it. We've done our assessments. We think it has probably 25 to 30 more years of life, if not longer than that, as it's been fairly well maintained by IU Health. We think it's in kind of an anchor spot. That if this parking structure were removed, somebody else in the private sector would want to come and develop one anyway. And that didn't make a lot of sense to us for sustainability reasons as well as why not maximize the placement of it as a good location in the master plan. Consulting team concurred with that. So we think we can kind of wrap around the parking garage, some uses to not let it stand out so much esthetically, make it kind of blend into the surroundings better. And it proved to be an asset more than a liability. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. If you want to join us on the program today, we're talking about the redevelopment of the IU Health Bloomington Hospital site, you can send us your questions to and you can follow us on Twitter @noonedition. Sara? 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: We got a question sent in probably for you Mick, but what's to prevent a new administration from coming in and deciding on new priorities years from now? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: I would say that the biggest thing that would limit that would be the fact that the master plan was developed over nine months with more than 700 unique touch points with our community. And I suspect our community, knowing them like I do, would be pretty vocal if a new administration came in and blew up the previous proposal without pretty sound reasoning for why that should change after as much public engagement as has been a part of this process. And I also want to mention to Frank's comment earlier. Frank, thank you for acknowledging the challenge of public engagement in the Covid crisis year that we've had. We were reluctant too at the beginning of the process and we wondered how it would help or hurt the public engagement for this particular site. We had certainly residents concerned that it was going to be a limiter. In fact, it turned out to be a positive. We had more people participate in our floor forums. This is just my opinion here. We had over 200 in our first forum. City Hall holds 125 people. You don't see City Hall very often. I say City Hall but I mean council chambers for a public meeting. You rarely see City Hall full. So Zoom rooms were full. We had more than a hundred in at least one other forum and close to a hundred in two other forums. So I really felt like we were able to engage the public in a unique and thoughtful way despite the pandemic. And we're all, of course, are now used to using Zoom to meet way too frequently. But nonetheless, we've all learned how to adapt to that. 

>>ISABEL PIEDMONT-SMITH: If I may just step in... 

>>FRANK NIERZWICKI JR: If I could follow... 


>>FRANK NIERZWICKI JR: If I could follow up - and real quickly, I'll let - I know Isabel to go after me. But in my 15 years, I was actually - I worked at INDOT - Indiana Department of Transportation - project manager for the bridges down in Louisville. Louisville metro area is much, much bigger than what we have here in Bloomington. The largest meeting I ever had in the 15 years that I've been with the state was about 200 people. So I think Mick and the city is doing an excellent job on public participation. 

>>ISABEL PIEDMONT-SMITH: And I just wanted to add as a response to the listener's question, another step that will be coming along pretty soon is to decide on the zoning of the hospital site which is currently medical zoned, but it will be rezoned based on the plans. And so once a portion is rezoned for a specific use or a set of uses, then another administration could not just, you know, go against that zoning. So that's another way that we can control what happens there. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Do you see this becoming kind of a neighborhood center sort of area? 

>>ISABEL PIEDMONT-SMITH: Yeah, I think so. I think it'll depend on what commercial uses go in there. We would love to see a cafe or a pub or something. I live just south of the site myself in McDoel Gardens neighborhood, and we're always looking for, you know, other gathering spaces to have neighborhood meetings and to just chat with people. So I think this certainly could fill that need. 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: And I agree with Isabel. I think when we first imagined this area and how we could repurpose it before the master plan was fully engaged with the community, we - as I say, the Hospital Reuse Committee and some city staff felt, well, you know, it's part of what the mayor is calling the string of pearls. It's right next to the B line. It's - trades district is to the north, Switchyard Park to the south. And the one piece in between those that's not quite gotten launched yet is the convention center expansion. So if you can imagine a decade from now, downtown Bloomington won't look the same as it does today. And even two decades from now, downtown may actually feel - this hospital site may feel like it's in the downtown as Bloomington continues to grow. And I think that was one of the things that excited me about this is just to imagine a downtown experience in Bloomington 20 or more years from now. And I hope I'm around (laughter) long enough to experience it to how communities grow and expand. And this is just not that far from downtown, although I suspect many residents feel like it is today. I don't think it'll always feel that way. 

>>FRANK NIERZWICKI JR: I think one other item, if I could follow up on that with - from Mick, was that for the comment that came in to us is that this is a high profile project. And the city administration has taken a major step here. I think there's going to be a strong desire from the administration and from the neighbors - from the neighborhoods to actually go ahead and make progress on this project. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. We've had a couple of questions come in, so I'll just ask the first one. And it says it's from Mary who says, what will the protocols be during demolition construction to avoid negative impacts on immediate neighbors in the two neighborhoods? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: Yeah, that's a really good question. So the hospital, IU Health will be responsible for the largest demolition phase, which is the hospital side proper. The ancillary sites that the city is going to get and turn over to us in parcels, there's much smaller structures on those sites. And they'll be approached on a phased-in level, so you won't see the whole site demolished at the same time. You'll see it in phases, on smaller scales, so that we can minimize disruption and, quite frankly, so we can attack the project in more manageable bites, if you will. By the time the project develops, our consultants estimated about 180 to 200 million dollars of investment in the site. Now, that's not city dollars. That's private sector dollars to build the mixed use developments, the housing, the commercial, all the things that will eventually populate the site. So that'll be done over time. And yes, there will be disruption. But we'll try to minimize it as best we can, knowing that IU Health has that responsibility for the biggest phase, which would be sometime next year. And I don't have the details as they have not yet announced how that demolition project is going to occur. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: I got a question from Eric saying regarding 3rd Street, I don't think it's been fully tested yet. We haven't seen how it works when IU football and basketball are filling their arenas. So maybe, Mick, you can talk about how I guess it has been tested if - and if it has? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: So the 3rd Street project was actually an INDOT and Frank - in Frank's world. He'll remember that. So that state highway is actually an INDOT project. Of course, the city did have the chance to influence the design and talk about the design. And we supported the way that INDOT wanted to do the road (unintelligible) to provide for a safer interaction with the intersections. Smith Road is a particularly problematic intersection, or it was, as traffic turned against the grain, if you will. If you were coming from the east side on 3rd Street and you wanted to turn - if you were coming from east - from west to east and you wanted to turn north on Smith Road, you had to fight two lanes of traffic coming at you. And it led to quite a few negative interactions at that intersection. Now with a dedicated turn lane, you have far less conflict there. And at Park Ridge, two of the major intersections that they cross without - one with a stoplight, one without. And we've - we do - we have not been able to test, as your as your listeners suggested yet, what game day traffic will be like. But remember, we have six of those days a year for football, and not everybody goes to the games all at the same time. So I believe and I know engineers that designed this project that INDOT along with our city engineers feel like the traffic counts will support and not bottleneck along 3rd Street with the new design. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. And that's - we're talking about the East 3rd Street. So, Mick, this is a similar design that you would anticipate for West 2nd Street? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: Well, it hasn't been designed yet, Bob. So I think the principle of, you know, you have to allow for - and that was another part of the East 3rd Street project. The bicycle lanes have to take up part of what was once two lanes of traffic - automobile traffic both ways. So obviously those lanes were shrunk to allow for those bicycle lanes to occur. So something similar could be a part of the design for 2nd Street. It's a little bit more constrained on 2nd Street as the right of way is not the same width as 3rd. But in principle, yes, you would assume that some similar treatments would occur on 2nd Street around the hospital that happened on East 3rd. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. So I have to ask about this because the term road diet has been thrown out here. It slips off the tongue very smoothly, but I've never heard it before (laughter). So, Mick, Frank, is that something new in the planning world? 

>>FRANK NIERZWICKI JR: No. It's been around for quite some time. And the thing in the planning field is that we're going to a more pedestrian-friendly setting in urban areas, trying to have a shorter distance for people to walk across - instead of going across like five lanes of traffic, trying to narrow that down. And actually, the city's done a good job of installing pedestrian islands as well in some of those areas around campus and throughout the city. 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: I'll give you an example of a recent one. Maybe it'll help because it's under construction right now. And I think a lot of people drive in this area for their various shopping needs on East Morse Pike and College Mall Road at the Sare Road intersection. So just south of the - just south and a little west of the theaters, the AMC Theater on College Mall Road. That intersection was very wide and almost impassable for pedestrians to get across or bicyclists. A recent improvement that's not quite finished yet is putting in islands, as Frank described, so that that length will allow for a pedestrian crossing to cross safely a shorter distance and then cross again the shorter distance, and then maybe have to cross one more time instead of having to do it all at once with fast-moving traffic. And that also connects in this particular improvement to an extended side path that goes all of the way the length of Sare Road down to the roundabout at Rogers and then goes further south. So it's connecting these links that have been created over time in our community, and we're just filling in some gaps. And then we're also increasing the pedestrian access to cross on some pretty wide intersections. So that's an example of a recent project that includes a road diet. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK, yeah. I've heard traffic calming and various other things, but the road diet term was new to me. So I want to invite our listeners to send us their questions. They can - you can find us on Twitter @noonedition and you can also send us questions for the show at So early in the program, Mick, you mentioned, I think you used the term an exciting or vibrant plan for mixed - a mix of uses. And so I want to ask of you and Isabel who were both on the committee about some of the ideas that, you know, came forward. And if there are some - you know, what kind of mixed use ideas do you have other than, you know, a lot of different housing ideas? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: Well, there'll be some - well, let's - let me see if I can give a visual that will help you... 


>>MICK RENNEISEN: ...And our listeners. So if you went down to Kirkwood during the pandemic and you saw Kirkwood closed with tents in the street and merchants both delivering food and other supplies out into the public right of away in that fashion, we think one of the streets where the existing hospital is now will be kind of that kind of a design where we can close it for festivals and things along the nature like what we have with Lotus downtown. But instead of having to close the road and put up all these ugly barricades, actually design the street to have bollards in it. Bollards are just barriers that now we have on Kirkwood that allow for that to happen when it's needed and in a lot easier way to set up a street for festivals or any kind of public use that would obviously mean maybe not traffic at that time. So that's one way - is just to make it feel like more of a gathering space than typically, you know, a street or some of our areas are designed now. And as Isabel mentioned, you know, coffee shops and bookstores and art space whether that - what kind, we don't know. But we're thinking that it could be a whole variety of things that make it a very vibrant sort of its own district, if you will. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: All right, Mick, another question we got for you, a person says there are - four public forums were promised in the hospital discussion phase but only three happened. The final one was a watch-only as part of the city council meeting where the master plan was presented. And then he goes on to say because there was no chance for discussion or breakout room discussion, it was not a public forum. Will there be at least one more public meeting for such public discussion on the final plan? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: Well, there won't be another one. The master plan is done. We did at the November 18th forum for presentation, we did have counsel ask questions and anyone - we also referenced in that forum that the hospital, the project website that's still active, had all the materials on it. You could go into and look at the draft plan as it was as of November 18 and leave comments. And those comments were taken into account before the final master plan was completed. So no more forums, but an opportunity, while a little nontraditional I'll give you that, we did give people the chance to go back in and look at the final master plan or at least a draft of it at that stage and weigh in with comments actually on the website. 

>>ISABEL PIEDMONT-SMITH: And I want to add also that the consultants did meet with McDoel Gardens neighborhood and Prospect Hill neighborhood last summer. So in addition to the forums that were open to everybody, there were some more specific gatherings for people who are more directly affected by the development. And I appreciated that. I know my neighbors did, too. 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: One of the things I would offer to the listener that asked or anybody whose thinking is, you know, this master plan, while done, has to be adaptable and flexible, I mentioned that at the beginning. And so as market conditions and things change in our society, it will have to be reflective in whatever needs to change in the master plan. The master plan is just a guide. It's not something that you're going to build exactly what the pictures in the master plan show. It's going to have to deal with the real world that we live in. So as each potential project comes forward, it will have a public process that has to be reviewed by the planning staff, the planning commission and in some cases the city council. So there'll be ample opportunity for project input as each phase develops out and as each developer comes forward with the plan. So I hope people can accept it's not done, finished, never to be discussed or opened up again, it's a reference point for everything that's about to come. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: That's Deputy Mayor Mick Renneisen. We also have council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith and IU faculty member Frank Nierzwicki from SPEA. Isabel, I want to ask you this question that came in from Thomas on our chat. And he asks how will we know that the development will be well prepared for climate change? 

>>ISABEL PIEDMONT-SMITH: Well, that is a good question. I think certainly the environmental sustainability was a big part of the lens through which the report was written and the plan was written. I think in the future it'll also depend on who will actually buy parcels and develop them. And, you know, we need to choose partners who are forward thinking and will consider climate change impacts and mitigation. I think I had mentioned earlier that the new greenway through the center of the site, east to west, will help with stormwater issues. I forgot to mention that it will include water features themselves. So they'll be not just permeable, you know, grass or permeable pavers but actually a stream that runs through or is daylighted in certain parts of that greenway. So I think that's another - a benefit as far as sustainability. Of course, it's a huge question. I mean, we have to think about, you know, how many people are going to drive? And how many people are going to be able to meet their needs within a small radius? But I think the nature of the site being in the middle of Bloomington is already very helpful and much better, certainly, than any kind of suburban development that could provide an equal amount of housing. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Frank... 

>>FRANK NIERZWICKI JR: I agree with Isabel on this. I think the updated stormwater drainage plan in this area will be up-to-date with the recent technology advances that we've had. And I think the other thing the plan calls for, and we have to make sure it actually follows through, is the green-cover - trying to get more trees in other areas and have less hard surfaces or temperature issues. And so the greening of this area will actually be a very beneficial item for the environment as well. 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: And I would just piggyback onto both of those comments, which I agree with, in that this is a really unique situation. The city is going to own these 24 acres. This is not a developer who's coming to the city that owns property and wants to develop it as they see fit and still would have to go through city zoning and planning regulations in that process, of course. But the city can just reject something that we don't think meets our goals - the goals for the plan and the goals for our community. And that's a very unique and much different position than normal. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Mick, I remember early on in the process, there were some people that wanted to not demolish the old hospital building, thought that reusing it in some way would be better. But I also remember at a meeting, one of the people who was on the committee pointed out was Lee from - yeah - Crider - from Crider. Yeah, Lee Carmichael talked about how if you'd let that building stand empty for any period of time, it's still going to cost a million dollars a year just to keep it running. So can you talk about the decision to actually demolish it rather than try to repurpose it in some way? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: Yeah, I'd say that's the most common question, particularly as you go back in time from six years ago to present was why can't we reuse it and then fill in the blank for how anybody would envision reusing it because we heard a million ideas. But really the answer, it's very short and sweet. Sweet - not sweet to those who don't want to hear this, but IU Health insisted on the building had to be demolished. It was not - it was a negotiation that said - that they said simply to the city, that is not negotiable. We will not allow the building to stand because we don't want it to be there 10 years from now still in its same state where it's an eyesore and unused by the community. They've had that experience in other cities, and they just didn't want to repeat it. So it is a condition of our agreement to buy the property that we cannot use, repurpose, the main hospital building. They are insistent upon that coming down, and it's going to come down at their expense. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Frank, when you've - I'm sure studied a lot of different communities. So can you talk about that issue the Mick just brought up? I mean, there have been places, I'm sure, that have tried to reuse big, empty buildings downtown. Is this consistent with the way that you think is a best practice? 

>>FRANK NIERZWICKI JR: Well, the issue that Mick mentioned, and I think, Bob, you did as well, was about maintaining the building until something comes in. In my opinion, this is from my professional experience, a hospital was not necessarily designed the best. They did what they had to do with the space they had. But it was very much a sprawling type of building complex. And in areas where they try to repurpose a building, I had heard from conversations I was involved with way back at the beginning with the hospital, with IU Health, is that they've had other examples. And they just did not want to have their name associated with a project that failed. And I think from my perspective, this has been a very positive for the city of Bloomington to make sure that if it's torn down, it's going to be torn down and demolished, it's at the cost of the hospital and not of the developer. So I think that's a major issue. Redevelopment happens all the time. The best plans are the ones that could actually be implemented. I think this one probably can be implemented. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Isabel, from the standpoint of the neighborhood and, you know, your representation of the neighborhood, Mick talked about the importance of the plan of just being flexible, moving forward. What kind of input will you have and will the neighborhood have and would you expect it to have as things start to work out? 

>>ISABEL PIEDMONT-SMITH: Well, I think that the neighborhoods directly adjacent should be at the top of the list when being informed about hearings in front of the planned commission for zoning changes. Those, of course, would also go to the city council where there would be public engagement, I would expect. And if the plan needs to be modified due to changes of, you know, economic or other conditions, then I would expect the administration to come back to the public and have public input onto that - into that revision process. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Are there things that, you know, would be nonstarters? And Mick, you can certainly weigh in here too - things that would be nonstarters, you think, with the community in terms of development in that area? 

>>ISABEL PIEDMONT-SMITH: Well, I think I mentioned earlier, you know, any kind of big box store or a mall or something that would become a major commercial destination would not be welcomed at all by (laughter) the neighbors. And the other thing is student housing. The neighbors are not - would not like to have a big student apartment building next door, both because of the size and because of the perception that students are going to be noisy. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Mick, do you have anything to add? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: No. I think Isabel is correct on both fronts. And I think the master plan reflects that. Now, you know, telling a certain part of our population you can't rent here is always a challenge. But I think the design elements of the area really drive whether or not it really becomes a student destination or not. It doesn't mean - just as I would suspect, folks at the Kirkwood and CFC-built property thought they probably wouldn't have students in that. They do because we've learned that students have some wealth or their parents do. And obstacles of high - potentially higher rents are not always an obstacle for some people who send their kids to the university. Nonetheless, we do not envision this as a student-centric development by any stretch of the imagination. We do see market rate housing going into the site, whether in multifamily or duplexes or other ways, as just a combination of the types of housing that will occur on the site over time. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. How are you - how will you make sure that there are some affordable or low-income housing units in that area? 

>>MICK RENNEISEN: Yeah. That is the great question that we're addressing. And it's, again, goes back to the - we, the city, will own the land. So we, the city, can say to a developer, you have a proposal that we want to help you with because it is going to create the product - affordable housing and workforce housing - that we want to see. Therefore, we, the city, through its redevelopment commission, can make the land deal, whatever that is, the sale of the land or the leasing of land, part of the subsidy that will be required for that kind of housing project. So I think that's the biggest key. And then, of course, we have the other tools that are typically used - our housing development fund, the CDBG and home grants, tax credits, tax abatements. But the unique one in this development is owning the land and being able to control who gets on it and who identifies with the goals that are articulated in the master plan. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. We have one minute to go. So Frank, very quickly, we talked about a people-first street. Can you define that? 

>>FRANK NIERZWICKI JR: Basically the design is actually pedestrian scale. Sometimes we think about things from the - from a landscape type of architecture and not really consider the individual. And with health issues, having people move more, all of this comes down to actually having mixed use - having different types of homes, having smaller commercial areas to actually walk to is actually a pedestrian friendly type of situation. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK, thank you. We are out of time, but I do want to share a website. It's - let's see here, You can go there for more information about any of these plans. So I want to thank our guests today, Frank Nierzwicki, Isabel Piedmont-Smith and Mick Renneisen. And I want to thank fellow Sara Wittmeyer, producer Bente Bouthier and engineer John Bailey. I'm Bob Zaltsberg. Thanks for listening to Noon Edition. 

>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Noon Edition is a production of WFIU Public Radio. A podcast of this program is available at Production support comes from Smithville - fiber Internet, streaming TV, home security and automation in Southern Indiana. More information at And from Bloomington Health Foundation - partnering with local organizations and citizens to invest in programs that address our communities health needs. Bloomington Health Foundation, improving health and well-being takes a community. More at

IU hospital redevelopment

(Courtesy: City of Bloomington)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

IU Health will vacate its hospital site in downtown Bloomington later this year.  The building will be demolished when the new IU Health Regional Academic Health Center opens on Bloomington’s east side.

The city bought the land where the hospital stands in 2018, with plans to redevelop the area into affordable housing, community connectivity, and sustainable development.

This month, the city published a master plan for the site. A statement from the city says the plan looks to develop the space incrementally as a mixed-use destination. 

These uses include different types of housing, green space, and environmentally friendly considerations for infrastructure. 

This week, we’ll talk about what redevelopment of the downtown space will mean for the future of Bloomington.

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition. You can also send us questions for the show at

Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. Because of this, we can't take live callers. 


Mick Renneisen, City of Bloomington deputy mayor

Isabel Piedmont-Smith, City Council member, district 5

Frank Nierzwicki Jr., O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs clinical assistant professor

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