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Search for Bloomington venues management taking longer than expected

Two people walking in downtown Bloomington.

Bloomington's city manager said a search for a director of both the arena and the Center for the Performing Arts is taking longer than hoped, and it might be time for a new approach.

"I'm seriously considering starting over and handing this over to a recruitment firm. I typically have not done that because I feel internally we can handle a national recruitment on our own. But this one could rise to that level," Gleason said on WGLT's Sound Ideas.

Gleason said it's so important to get the hire right that it could be $25,000 well spent for a successful search, adding the new manager of both facilities must make them succeed in creating positive economic impacts for the community.

Downtown streetscape plan

On another topic, Gleason said a number of pressing issues will have to wait until the downtown streetscape plan is finished in a year, including how much underground water and sewer replacement needs to happen in the city's core.

"We have got to know what is on our radar as far as infrastructure. If I know I have something coming in 2-7 years it will have to be in this project and addressed now," said Gleason. "That's one of the reasons two years ago, I held on the permanent parking space markings. I've got downtown businesses that are asking me what's going to occur with outdoor dining. And I've told them, can you wait? Let's see what this streetscape design plan brings before you make that kind of investment. Even a $40,000 striping plan; I don't want to execute that in good conscience, knowing 2-3 years later, I'm going to be removing that."

New downtown parking policies also will be part of the plan. The city council just approved spending about $750,000 on a study to develop the renovation plan. Gleason said the downtown streetscape project could be in the $25-30-million range. Finishing the street plan in 12 months will be ambitious but do-able, he said.

"The downtown is huge. If someone actually gets out and walks the downtown, you get an idea of the magnitude," he said. "Regardless if this is segmented, or if somehow council would say do it all in a very short time frame, it definitely would not be done in one construction season, but you need this design plan first."

Over a period of decades, some council members have paid attention to the amount of resources poured into each ward and pushed for equitable distribution. This sets up a potential political issue for approval of any streetscape plan because it would plunk down that $25-30 million in just two wards — 4 and 6 that encompass downtown.

Gleason said that is not the way to look at the issue.

"I'm gonna say the heart and soul of a community is that downtown," he said, adding "building on the character and warmth of the existing downtown" need not be a zero-sum game with other areas of the community

"I can start shopping for federal and state money. This design plan, once completed, gives me an opportunity to actually start shopping for ... money outside of the community. Federal and state does not take away from the existing revenues that are paying for the existing projects that the city has," said Gleason.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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