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Good evening Council Members, residents, and City staff members.

Thank you for the opportunity tonight to outline some exciting prospects with you. It is a distinct privilege we share to serve our city as we mark our Bicentennial this year.  We’ve celebrated and we’ve honored the past, along with our county colleagues, with plenty of fanfare and meaningful activities. We started the year talking about Trees and Trails, and we’ve enhanced local greenways and trails, planted hundreds of Bicentennial trees all over town, in schools, parks, neighborhoods, and sold Bicentennial saplings to residents to plant for the occasion.

Beyond that, in late April, thousands filled Kirkwood from the Sample Gates to the square, a beautiful afternoon that brought out everything from the IU Calliope to the Bloomington Peace Choir to the League of Women Voters. On the Fourth of July, along with our legendary parade, we had Bicentennial fireworks and a concert downtown, bringing activity and excitement to our city’s newest cultural destination--the Trades District. The county re-enacted the founding events, has the CourtHouse fish naming contest going on, and more. We’ve had essay contests and art contests, a commissioned song, pub crawls, and renamed streets in honor of some of our most distinguished community members from over the last two centuries. We have a Bicentennial Veterans Day 5k coming up on November 11 in RCA Park, and a New Year’s Eve close-out party planned.

At this juncture, reflecting on two centuries of Bloomington’s progress, one can’t help but consider the future, the next century or two. We know the great things we enjoy and rely on in Bloomington now, the parks, the roads, the water, the trees and trails, and all the infrastructure that requires, the economy, the culture, the zing -- none of that got here by magic. We are who we are as a community, because people before us were thoughtful and intentional about this place, invested in it, tended it, improved it, imagined new things, and helped the community grow and work for future generations--us!!  Metaphorically speaking, and even literally, they planted trees, under whose shade they knew they would not sit.

Bloomington continues to do that, of course. Thanks to the investments of our community, the recommendations of our boards and commissions, and the prudent allocations of this Council, we find ourselves in our Bicentennial year with a tremendous alignment of opportunities to shape the way Bloomington works for all residents in the coming decades and, we hope, beyond. Like our forebears, we are being intentional about how land, resources, and infrastructure should be used in our community. You know the list of major activities that present great opportunities for our City to improve our quality of life and support jobs and housing for people from all walks of life. That list includes: the new IU Health Hospital site on the east side, the Convention Center expansion project, the important opportunities on the current hospital site, the Trades District--where we’ll celebrate a ribbon-cutting at The Mill on October 31st--and of course our community’s largest parks project, Switchyard Park, under construction with opening planned late next year.

These and many other projects will help sustain Bloomington’s health into our third century, and, we hope, beyond. As I mentioned during our budget presentation in August and September, in honor of Bloomington’s Bicentennial, I also believe it’s appropriate for us as a community to make a lasting gift to the future. To pay it forward in a special way in connection with the Bicentennial.

We’re asking the Council tonight to support a $10 million Bicentennial Bond, with which we will make these investments for the coming generations. Respecting the past and what we’ve inherited, and paying forward with investments that will increase in value over time, and help enhance the quality of life that supports all that we do -- that supports our economy, our culture, our people, and helps continue the 200 years of progressive momentum. I would submit that this is a very appropriate thing for us to do to honor the Bicentennial landmark we are enjoying. I would note we will continue to have among the lowest property tax rates among Indiana’s largest 20 cities.

When identifying a lasting gift, we know our community values many, many things, but when we do community surveys -- and another one is coming your way in the next few months! -- what we always learn is that we Bloomingtonians love our outdoor spaces -- our tree-lined streets, our parks and natural areas from the leafy glades in the Lower Cascades to the ball courts and playgrounds from Bryan Park to Olcott to Griffy Lake, and, of course, we love our trails! We love connecting. And as we consider our part as a community in a world facing terribly challenging climate change and the imperative to create sustainable, beautiful, livable places for all people, investing in our mobility connections and our natural resources makes eminent sense.

Given what a boon the B-Line has been, and the the greenways and sidepaths we’ve created over the last few years, you will see the Bicentennial Bond projects include four major new investments to enhance our mobility network, all consistent with our long-range transportation plans:
 

  1. A Seventh Street Greenway including 1.3 miles of improvements, running on Seventh Street from the B-Line east to the ByPass on the eastside, with coordination planned with IU for the section through campus. I think of this as an East-West B-Line through the heart of town

  2. In Lower Cascades Park, our oldest park, converting 1.2 miles of one lane of the roadway to a bike-pedestrian trail through that gorgeous valley, connecting Clubhouse Drive south to College Avenue connecting to Miller-Showers Park and beyond

  3. A new soft surface 3.6 mile hiking trail around Griffy Lake, opening up new experiences in that awesome Nature Preserve, and which will link to the Cascades trails to the west and, through continuing work with IU and IU Health, can connect as well to the new hospital site to the south

  4. And a new 1.3 mile trail, running west from Switchyard Park potentially along the Duke Powerline right of way, linking to RCA Park, Weimer Road, and Wapehani Mountain Bike Park
     

These four projects will bring seven miles of new and enhanced connectivity, major investments in the long-term network of non-auto connectivity that will be so essential to our community’s health and prosperity and quality of life in the coming decades. In addition to these four projects, with illustrations to be provided shortly from staff experts, we’re proposing three more particular investments for the future with the Bicentennial Bond:
 

  • Beginning major downtown alleyway activations and enhancements, with three blocks of alleys by the downtown square to be funded for repaving, lighting and beautification

  • Planting and replacing 1,400 street trees, about 10% of our inventory, to sustain our beautiful tree canopy and continue our leadership as Indiana’s first Tree City USA member

  • And finally, investing in four to six gateways for our community, including art and landscaping and trees, to create more significant and beautiful entry points to our 200-year-old community, such as at the Millers-Showers Park gateway, the Arlington Pedestrian Overpass, and other thoroughfare entrances.
     

All of these projects will continue the 200-year history of enhancing quality of life and place, to support all the people of our community, and to continue the progressive momentum that we work on together every day. They are long-term investments that will pay dividends for decades. We hope future generations will look back and appreciate this Bicentennial paying forward.

Two heads up to the wider community as well -- first we’ll look forward to public input about the details of all these projects, in the months ahead. And second, we hope to offer a chance for all members of our community to participate by buying a Bicentennial Bond later this year. You can look to invest in the tax-exempt bond and be a part of the financing for this gift to the next generations. Might make nice holiday gifts!!

In terms of planning for the future, there is one other area to be considered tonight, and that’s allocating funds for parking garages.  I know -- parking garages are a bit of a comedown after talking about Bicentennial Bonds. But parking garages are, at present, part of the infrastructure for current and prospective residents, workers, and businesses of Bloomington. Yes, mobility options are indeed evolving, and shared rides, autonomous vehicles and other options occupy our urban planning; you’ll see that we’ve designated funds to investigate how to factor these changing mobility options into our transportation infrastructure.  And we’ve budgeted for garages that are ultimately convertible, so that these structures can provide other uses in the event they are no longer required to warehouse cars throughout the business day. That being said, because of pressing needs today, and facility degradation, we will be requesting a $17 million revenue bond to finance a replacement structure for the Fourth Street Garage, which has been determined to be both under-capacity and at the end of its useful life, and $10.8 M to build a new 400-space garage in the Trades District, which is critical in attracting and retaining companies in our new business hub.  Both these bonds are designed to be repaid through revenue from the facilities. Our controller, along with other city staff, will share more details about these projects in a moment.

Thank for your consideration and I hope support for these important investments in our future -- these statements of optimism and faith that Bloomington will continue to be a thriving, exciting, vibrant place well into our next century, a place where people FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE can live and work and play in a community that supports them.  Thank you for the work you do on behalf of our wonderful city. Here’s to the next century.
 

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