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Bloomington Gathering Input For Next Community Preservation Plan

Downtown Bloomington
The city hired The Lakota Group, based in Chicago, to help create the new Community Preservation Plan.

The City of Bloomington’s next Community Preservation Plan may put more emphasis on the not-so-distant past and more visibly connect the dots between historic preservation and affordable housing.

The city’s 16-year-old Community Preservation Plan is being refreshed this year, with more public input sessions planned for early April. Guided by Chicago-based consultant The Lakota Group, the new plan is expected to be finalized by fall 2020 and last a decade.

The plan will assess the city’s historic preservation programs and policies, such as the Funk and Rust grant programs, and make recommendations for identifying historic resources and potential designations. 

Up until now, Bloomington’s historic preservation focus has been on the Civil War era through the early 1900s, said City Planner Katie Simpson. But the National Park Service uses 50 years as a threshold for potential historical significance, such as being added to the National Register of Historic Places.

That leaves a gap, Simpson said. 

“Anything from 1970 and backwards, we’re missing that story in our narrative. And so that’s one of the areas where we definitely are wanting to look at. Are there any new contexts that have evolved since post-World War II that are worth documenting or preserving?” Simpson said.

While the process is still underway, the new Community Preservation Plan is also likely to draw a more concrete connection between historic preservation and affordable housing, Simpson said.

Much of Bloomington’s housing stock was built in the early 1900s through 1970, she said. Preserving those properties maintains neighborhood character, she said, but that’s not all.

“It creates alternative housing options to just owning a single-family home, or living in a multiunit apartment complex. It adds some of that missing middle housing,” Simpson said. “Maybe a duplex, or a smaller studio apartment. It can give people more options, which can keep the cost of rent down because there’s more supply.”

The planning process is guided by a 19-person Steering Committee. Planners have already received feedback from specific stakeholders.

Next up, the general public will be able to provide feedback during sessions April 2 at the Wayman AME Church in west Bloomington, and April 3 during First Friday festivities downtown.

The last Community Preservation Plan was finalized in 2004.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.