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Page last updated on June 3, 2019 at 2:26 pm

Welcome, everyone! Thank you for being here today to recognize another important milestone in Bloomington’s history. Now, this ribbon cutting of two new streets, three blocks in length may not immediately seem like a momentous, milestone event. It could seem small in a community that endured the construction of I-69, for a decade! But, with apologies to Neil Armstrong, cutting the ribbon across Maker Way and Madison may be a small step for individuals today, but it’s another giant leap for Bloomington.   

It’s a giant leap because with today’s official opening up of the wider Trades District, we’re hurtling headlong into the new economy.  With the infrastructure in place, we go beyond our imagination and architect’s illustrations, to see and feel the Trades District come alive. With the creation of east-west Maker Way, and the extension of north-south Madison Street between 10th and 11th, we mean business and opportunity.

Peek inside the Mill and see where 150-plus members are busily building their businesses, attracting investors, connecting with a global market, dreaming for our future. Tour the Kiln. Check out the food trucks, lined up for another festive Friday. Walk these new sidewalks and streets. A hundred years ago, this place buzzed with the sounds of trees being milled into lumber then crafted into furniture and of trains rumbling down the tracks carrying that furniture all around the country. You can see in the design we’re opening up today the traces of those train tracks that ran by that formidable Showers Brothers Furniture Company.

This ground that was central to Bloomington’s economic vitality in our first and second centuries, has been reimagined, rebuilt and reactivated tinto an incubator of economic opportunity for our third century.

Progress toward today’s ribbon cutting has happened at an impressive clip lately -- it’s just seven months to the day after we were here to cut the ribbon on The Mill -- on Halloween Day 2018!  And that dedication happened just 7 months after a blustery day in March 2018 when we first broke ground here. (If my math is right and the pattern holds, mark down coming back on New Year’s Eve this year -- not sure but that’s another seven months so be ready!)

Still, arriving at today’s official opening of the Trades District for business, has been the work of many years and of many partners, with tremendous vision and hard work.  Some of you are gathered here today. With gratitude, on behalf of myself and former Mayors Kruzan, Fernandez and Allison, all instrumental in revitalizing this area, we recognize and salute the Redevelopment Commissioners, the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation, the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, many, many folks at our great partner Indiana University, including those at the Philanthropic Venture Fund, along with those at the state’s venture capital fund, Elevate, and our friends from Columbus, Indiana in the Velocities partnership. We would not be here without pioneering companies that staked early claims in the Trades District, even before things started rising up out of the ground -- Tasus/Tsuchiya and PedCor/B-Line Heights, and Co-Work joining The Mill -- and the earlier investors in these urban blocks -- Solution Tree and Upland Brewery, among others.

[The Mill board chairs Jane Martin, Tony Franklin, and inimitable Pat East. City staff who sleep and breathe this project Alex Crowley, Brian Payne, Kelly Boatman, plus Ron Walker and Danise Alano-Martin]

So much business happens “in the cloud” these days, virtually, or digitally, and the organizations I’ve named certainly do plenty of their commerce in cyberspace. But with the Trades District, we have made a concerted effort to create a physical destination for business headquarters, for cultural and innovation life. For the jobs that will drive our future quality of life. No matter how much we make, buy, and sell remotely, we recognize that place, and community matters. That being physically in the same space as other human beings matters. Which is why we have been so intentional about the physical character of the Trades District, so the makers and innovators of today, and their customers, can rub shoulders, brainstorm ideas, and amplify one another. To be a place that offers workers, residents and visitors beautiful design, and appealing arts, entertainment and retail offerings. Creative collisions. The Trades District fosters that Zeitgeist, that vibe -- through the particular urban style you see here -- curbless streets, a human-scaled, walkable landscape, full of benches and nooks, and plazas and vantage points. And of course the award-winning rehab of the Mill (recognized earlier this month by Indiana Landmarks).

Significant original artwork -- our city’s first ever six-figure commission -- will be going in nearby, and soon. Take a look at the five designs being considered just inside the Mill, and express your views!

You’re also standing on the greenest urban infrastructure project in Bloomington. With permeable pavements, electric charging stations throughout, intensive stormwater management with swales, rain gardens and design features that will serve all the properties in the District, with major bike and pedestrian investments, and four majestic pin oaks saved as historic sentinels linking future and past.

All of this has been the work of many, many gifted planners, architects, builders, and contractors.  Among them, I would like to recognize the planners Anderson and Bohlander, construction manager Weddle Brothers, the general contractor, Milestone, and Cassidy Electric.    

Today we gather to open two streets, a District, a neighborhood, and a new era. I would miss an opportunity not to invite you to make history -- and future -- with us by investing in this adventure. Although Plants 1 and 3 of the original Showers Complex have been spoken for -- that’s City Hall and the Mill, by the way -- the Showers Administration Building, known as “the prettiest building in Bloomington” when it opened in 1916, and the inspiring Kiln -- where lumber was dried and seasoned before sawn into furniture -- will be available for sale next month. You can explore the Kiln with local historian Martin Minner in just a moment. A new parking facility is in design as we speak, to be built just northwest of the Showers Building and south of 10th Street. Right across Rogers Street, the B-Line Heights apartments will open in August, providing affordable workforce housing the next block over. And of course there are several undeveloped lots for sale just over there, shovel ready, with utility and fiber conduit waiting for you! Just sidle up to Alex Crowley, who will be happy to share specifics with you. You can keep track of all these developments and get the nuts and bolts at the Economic and Sustainable Development Department’s web page. This is a thrilling time for the City, as we open up the Trades District and welcome the 21st century jobs and people who will chart our future. In the years to come, I hope and trust that you’ll be proud to say that you were here today, at that giant leap for Bloomington.

Next, you’ll be hearing from two key partners, key investors in the future here. We welcome Bill Stephan, IU Vice President for Engagement, who oversees among other things economic development and technology commercialization for the university. IU’s partnership in general and Bill’s particular role have been so important to our future, in establishing the larger Bloomington Certified Technology Park and so much more. We greatly appreciate the university’s and Bill’s leadership and partnership. After Bill speaks, you’ll hear from Melanie Walker, another true partner, and early investor in the bright future of the Trades District, as she led the way for Tasus/Tsuchiya to commit to building its North American corporate headquarters and design center right here downtown. You can see the spectacular, exciting building design coming our way on the billboard right over there. Thank you so much to both of you, and Bill we welcome you to the podium.