Bloomington to seek conversation with diocese once Holy Trinity closure decision is made
The City of Bloomington is paying attention to the potential closure of Holy Trinity Catholic Church at the north end of downtown, after the Catholic Diocese of Peoria recently released a proposal to shutter the landmark building and merge the parish with another.
“It's one that's definitely on our radar,” said City Manager Tim Gleason.
Gleason said Holy Trinity has potential implications for the overall feel of downtown if it gets torn down, though he predicted resistance to that possibility.
“This is a prominent structure. And I would imagine that there will be a fair amount that have an opinion that this has historical value,” Gleason said on WGLT's Sound Ideas.
He said the city Economic and Community Development Department already is having preliminary discussions about the site.
"We're just trying to explore what the possibilities are. We want to avoid this [tear down possibility] as much as we possibly can and definitely slide along ... to help market this if that's what the church allows us to do," said Gleason, acknowledging the difficulty of re-purposing a large church building, but expressing hope something may develop.
"There have been a couple of, very preliminary, but interested parties asking us what the development possibility might be. And we don't know," said Gleason.
He said a closure could have a significant impact on the downtown environment.
A recently released diocese report suggested closing the church because of low attendance, and consolidating the parish with another one in Bloomington — though parish members are pushing back on the plan. The decision will be made next year.
Gleason said the city plans to reach out to the diocese for a conversation.
“Truly an A-B conversation is our next step,” said Gleason.
On another topic, Gleason said he is pleased with the public responseso far to city efforts to get input on the draft downtown streetscape plan. He said more than 7,000 people have visited the specialty website on the project. And several hundred people have made comments about the proposal on one platform or another.
“Staff are already, based on information that they're receiving, looking at smaller kickoff type of projects, you know, and council ultimately will have that menu of options to consider when this thing truly is buttoned up and its final form,” said Gleason.
The city plans another public input forum early in 2024 and the potentially $30 million effort will be presented to the council in late winter or early spring.
“With everything that the city is doing, some might believe the improvement of the downtown is the quickest thing to say no to," said Gleason. "I don't think that's going to be the case with this council. It's never going to be perfect. But I think there's enough in the community that buy into refurbishing the downtown and making it more walkable, and more entertainment opportunities than we already are offering. And I think it really is exciting. There's a buzz, and there's a momentum that's going to continue to grow.”
Credit rating upgrade
The city's credit rating recently was upgraded to AA1 from AA+. Gleason called the upgrade, the second during his tenure, "huge."
“This is not just about riding the wave of all the economic growth you see in the community…You don't go in front of a ratings board, Moody's in this case, and just talk about Rivian, Ferrero, and some of the other stuff going on. They want to know how you are addressing some of your other needs, and a lot of those are infrastructure, you know,” said Gleason. “It's actually the council making some tough decisions and addressing some of the needs of the community."
He noted the council just approved a rate structure for a $400 million water system-wide improvement.
“Even a fraction of a percent off on a bond or a loan related to this project, and there are other projects, is real money over the course of 20-30 years," said Gleason. "That's what that highest double A allows us to do when we look for financing."
Gleason said he aspires to a AAA rating for the city, something few municipalities achieve.
“While there is separation, obviously, in that AAA, we knew we had a lot of bondable projects that were coming up," he said. "That's just the normal the normal ebb and flow of any municipality here in the mid-to-late 2020s. This decade, we've got normal bond debt that's dropping off and it's always replaced by new bond debt. The needs within the community do not change. But it's perfect timing for us.”