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Page last updated on April 23, 2019 at 2:22 pm

Thank you Deborah, and welcome everyone to this happy occasion on this beautiful day in Bloomington.  

I want to thank all the partners who have collaborated and contributed to bring us to this milestone:  to South Central Indiana Housing Opportunities (SCIHO), of course, for its leadership, the Board of Park Commissioners, City Council, Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Mutual Bank, Lowes, and of course the federal HOME program through which our City Housing and Neighborhood Development Fund was able to leverage funds for this project.   

And of course, in addition to working to make those HUD funds available to this project, and contributing to it from the Housing Development Fund, the City invested in this project by allocating this [0.62 acre-] parcel of the Switchyard Park purchase to the development of affordable housing.

That’s a lot of partners, over a long timeline -- especially if you consider the history of the land where we’re standing now. Starting in 1892, this stretch of land was known as the McDoel Railroad Switchyard. It was bustling with hardworking railroad employees, serving Bloomington’s equally dynamic manufacturing sector.  For much of the 20th century, railroad workers would line up the trains here, boxcar to boxcar, and send them where they needed to go, full of limestone, Showers furniture, GE refrigerators, RCA TVs.  By the 1980s and 90s, there were fewer manufactured goods shipping out of Bloomington, and by 2000, CSX was in negotiations to sell the McDoel Yard to the City.

My predecessors had the vision to dedicate this land to greenspace and recreation, to enrich the quality of life for future generations of hard-working Bloomingtonians.  The tracks turned into the B-Line trail--one of Bloomington’s most beloved additions of the past decade--and this 60-plus acre tract that was the McDoel Yard, will open as the magnificent Switchyard Park later this year -- complete with a splash pad, skate park, pavilions, pickleball, and much much more.  

And this parcel?  Well, that was a case of more vision, and more intentionality.  In designing the park, it became clear that we could accomplish many goals by using this land well -- and not just the kinds of goals you accomplish by putting balls past posts or through hoops.  Yes, in this development project, we could see extra-recreational goals -- public parks enhance quality of life, but what about an even more basic building block to quality of life: affordable housing?  Knowing that it’s a challenge here, we’re working hard to grow places to live for people from all walks of life, at all stages of life, and of all abilities. Just a few of the affordable units we’ve added:

Evergreen Village (for seniors, accepts Medicaid, 115 units)

Crawford II (for those experiencing chronic homelessness, 36 units)

B-Line Heights (34 units)

Crescent Road Apts (117)

As a city, we operate some affordable housing directly, through our Bloomington Housing Authority, but usually we partner and encourage its development -- through our land-use policies, and in the very fundamental way we have here with the Switchyard Apartments, by purchasing land that comes up for sale and dedicating it to the development of long-term affordable housing.  SCIHO has leased this land from the city for 99 years at a dollar a year, to provide 16 units to folks whose income falls below the median for our area [specifically 50-80% of AMI, with two units reserved for even lower-income households, under BHA voucher system]. I am especially glad to know that three of the units in the first phase of this project will be dedicated to those with disabilities.

It’s a nice way to celebrate the Fair Housing Act, as we often do in April.  For fifty-one years, it has been illegal to discriminate against those seeking to rent or buy a home on the basis of race, sex, age, ethnic origin, disability, and many other categories.  We know, however, that that discrimination persists, and that the legacy of such practices as redlining to restrict buyers of color from certain areas has been to limit the wealth folks have been able to build. It is our responsibility to do what we can to turn that trend around. This is a start.

And also good to be here on Earth Day. For most important environmental decision we make is often where we live. Switchyard Park will be a magnificent destination for visitors and residents alike.  We can only begin to imagine how it will transform its environs, and Bloomington as a whole. One thing we must use our power of imagination to create, however, is a future that is equitable for all.  A place where the things that make Bloomington special are accessible to everyone. With the Switchyard Park in their backyard, the residents of the Switchyard Apartments can partake of the best Bloomington has to offer, and help shape our community in the coming generations.  

Thank you.