Downtown Bloomington | WGLT

Downtown Bloomington

Jeff Giebelhausen/Farnsworth Group

City officials could get their first detailed peek into plans for a downtown hotel during a meeting next week. Bloomington alderman Karen Schmidt, whose ward serves downtown, said during Sound Ideas, the project could prove to be a major impetus in reviving the central business district.

Homeless In Bloomington, Part 3

Jul 8, 2016
Judith Valente

McLean County offers a variety of services to help the homeless find medical care, recovery services, jobs and housing. But the county's two main shelters cannot accommodate everyone. Certain restrictions apply as to who can stay at the shelters, and sometimes both facilities are full.

A new shelter is getting started in downtown Bloomington. It aims to become a one-stop center serving the most difficult cases. The Abundant Life In Christ Church offers food, shelter, showers, clothing, help finding jobs -- and spiritual sustenance. 

Homeless In Bloomington, Part 2

Jul 7, 2016
Bill Waller / Facebook

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner says his officers have the difficult task of striking a balance between protecting the rights of homeless people while still responding to business owners’ complaints.

“When they see homeless people down there, they think it doesn’t look good and they call," Heffner told WGLT. "We remind them that unless they are breaking the law, there’s nothing that we can do. They can ask somebody for money and as long as they’re not jumping in front of a person and being intimidating, which would be disorderly conduct, generally we don’t have a problem.”

Police, Service Providers Assess Homeless Needs

Jul 6, 2016
Judith Valente

Service providers who work with the homeless estimate that there are less than 250 homeless people in McLean County at any given time.

Several advocates for the homeless spoke at a community meeting Wednesday night called by the Bloomington Police Department to address complaints about the homeless by some downtown business owners.

Homeless In Bloomington, Part 1

Jul 6, 2016
Judith Valente

The recent case of vandalism to a bench frequented by homeless people in downtown Bloomington has reopened a community conversation about gaps in services for the chronically homeless.

Some downtown business owners have stepped up their complaints, while some homeless people say they are unfairly singled out by police. Bloomington police, business owners and advocates for the homeless will meet this evening to discuss what some see as a simmering problem.

Bloomington Police Department

Bloomington police have released two videos of a man applying tar to a downtown bench (scroll down to see videos). The man is unidentifiable in both videos.

The department is ended its investigation on May 12 into an incident last month in which tar was spread over a public bench in an apparent effort to deter a homeless man from using the bench.

The man's only set of clothes was ruined.

Police say they have insufficient evidence to make an arrest.

Staff / WGLT

School officials are trying to make sure they aren't stung by proposed economic incentives for a $50 million downtown Bloomington hotel project.

The city is studying the feasibility of creating a tax increment financing district, or TIF, where additional property tax revenue in an area is redirected back to the development site instead of going to local taxing bodies.

While District 87 wouldn't be getting any less money than it does now, Superintendent Barry Reilly said the district doesn't want to miss out on that money for the maximum length of a TIF.

Police Study Surveillance Tape of Tar Bench Incident

May 9, 2016
Bill Waller / Facebook

Bloomington Police are searching for a suspect seen on surveillance videos spreading tar on a public bench. Officials believe the incident was a prank meant to discourage homeless people from congregating downtown.  

Officer Sara Mayer says police so far have been unable to identify the suspect who was wearing sweat pants and a hooded sweatshirt.

"Footage did capture an unidentified subject carrying a bucket and placing a substance on the bench. The subject's gender, race or personal descriptors is unknown," Mayer said.

Staff / City of Bloomington

A new hotel proposed for downtown Bloomington could receive the benefits of a Tax Increment Financing District. Council members will vote tonight on creating a TIF study for an area that includes buildings at Front Street and Center Street.

Bill Waller / Facebook

The Downtown Bloomington Association is calling for dialog in the wake of someone painting a bench with tar, apparently to deter homeless people.

Michael Hill / WGLT

In a 5-4 vote, the Bloomington City Council approved liquor license fee increases for the first time since 1982. The changes will begin next year, with subsequent increases in 2019 and 2021. The original proposal called for additional fees to be spread out over three years. Alderman Mboka Mwilambwe said the compromise will help businesses work out the details over a longer period of time.

Paul Sableman / Creative Commons

Bloomington could begin bringing in more money for alcohol regulation and late night downtown policing as well as police and fire department pensions.

Brian SImpson

Area visual artists strut their stuff as part of Downtown Bloomington's First Friday.

*Artists Brian Simpson and Amy Wolfe have teamed up with the DBA and Connect Transit to organize the Downtown Bloomington Arts Showcase, which  is Friday, May 6 from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 7 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

*There are many artist studios and galleries in Downtown Bloomington.  Several businesses will host  the artists, including Specs Around Town, Cravin Donuts (Mmmmm...donuts!) and Crossroads.

Staff / WGLT

Bloomington Alderman Scott Black says “engaging the public is key” in moving forward with economic development projects. The City Council passed a resolution approving a contract to purchase the former Mennonite Hospital for $1.4 million, which formerly housed Electrolux on Main Street north of downtown.

Black said he’d love to see a development go into the Electrolux property that will benefit the tax payers in the long term.

Bloomington Council To Vote On Economic Development

Mar 14, 2016

The Bloomington City Council will consider options for economic development in downtown during tonight’s regular meeting.

Ralph Weisheit

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner said the city will not take over management of the Downtown Bloomington U. S. Cellular Coliseum. Renner said, "that needs to be in private hands."

Bloomington Council Considering Downtown Project

Feb 16, 2016
Michael Hill / WGLT

The Bloomington City Council may participate in the development of a hotel and conference center downtown. During a committee meeting, aldermen informally supported an inducement resolution, which is usually the first step in issuing bonds.

Jeff Giebelhausen/Farnsworth Group

The developer presenting plans to the Bloomington City Council Tuesday said during GLT's Sound Ideas if he'd known two and a half years ago it would take so long, he wouldn't have gotten into it.

Jeff Giebelhausen told WGLT's Mike McCurdy that his youngest son is a freshman at Illinois Wesleyan and he's "vested in Bloomington."

"I believe in this project. I do believe in Downtown Bloomington. I believe the negatives are a very vocal group," said Giebelhausen. "I want to address their questions absolutely accurately, one at a time, and when the facts speak I think it's clear this is a good project for the city.

Michael Hill / WGLT

Liquor license fees in Bloomington may see an increase as part of the city's cost recovery efforts. The amount license holders pay has not gone up since 1982. Currently, it costs anywhere from $550 to $2,200 for a liquor license, depending on what type.


Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

The Mayor is touting economic development, infrastructure improvements, and Downtown Bloomington in his annual State of the City address. Mayor Tari Renner joined Mike McCurdy during Sound Ideas to talk more about the State of the City, which he says “is strong.” He says one of two current downtown redevelopment proposals could be dead. However the other could bring more improvement to downtown. And despite Mitsubishi ceasing production, he says there was lots of other positive economic news in 2015.

Details Lacking On Downtown Hotel Proposal

Jan 12, 2016
Devyn Corp., Tarter Construction, Farnsworth Group

Bloomington's Mayor says without additional information, one of the two proposals for a downtown hotel is dead.

Developers David Bentley of Bloomington and Jeff Giebelhausen of Peoria have floated separate plans for a downtown hotel. During an appearance on GLT's Sound Ideas, Mayor Tari Renner says Bentley hasn't responded to consultant requests for more information about his plans to transform the Pantagraph into a boutique hotel.

Michael Hill / WGLT

Bloomington Aldermen are considering several options to recover costs of providing additional police protection to serve the Downtown Bloomington bar district. Mayor Tari Renner and Alderman Scott Black spoke with WGLT's Mike McCurdy during Sound Ideas.

Devyn Corp., Tarter Construction, Farnsworth Group

David Bentley has been active in downtown Bloomington for 20 years, buying property, rehabbing it, and running it. His latest proposal includes developing the Pantagraph building into a boutique hotel. Bentley tells GLT's Charlie Schlenker he partnered with the city in 2007 and 2008. He agrees with Mayor Tari Renner that a downtown hotel will help the coliseum as it has the economy in Uptown Normal.

The city working with consultants SB Freidman to vet a proposal from Bentley's Devyn Corporation and Jeff Giebelhausen plan for the Front and Center block.

Todd Ryburn / Wikimedia Commons

The Bloomington City Council voted to contribute $50,000 over the next five years to the McLean County Museum of History's $3 million capital campaign. During his regular Sound Ideas interview, Mayor Tari Renner said the museum is of strategic importance in future, possible downtown redevelopment plans.

Urban Land Institute

One of top urban planners in the U. S. gives high marks to the way Normal planned its uptown redevelopment. Tom Murphy, former Pittsburgh mayor and now with the Urban Land Institute, says the neighboring Marriott and Hyatt hotels are obviously a part of a well-thought out plan.

Ronald C. Yochum Jr. / Wikimedia Commons

A leader in urban renewal says hotels can be useful tools in redevelopment efforts, but they need to be part of a larger strategy. As Mayor of Pittsburgh, Tom Murphy led an unprecedented redevelopment effort, relying on public-private partnerships. In this excerpt of a Sound Ideas interview, Mike McCurdy talked with Murphy, now with the Urban Land Institute, about Uptown Normal and Downtown Bloomington redevelopment efforts.

Connect Transit Loses Out On Grant

Nov 2, 2015
Jim Browne / WGLT

Connect Transit is looking at other options after being turned down for a federal TIGER Grant for a Downtown Bloomington transfer station. The grant would have replaced small shelters now on Front Street. Connect Transit General Manager Andrew Johnson says he's not discouraged.

Devyn Corp., Tarter Construction, Farnsworth Group

Bloomington Aldermen are directing city staff to study multiple Downtown proposals from two developers. Mayor Tari Renner says look no further than Uptown Normal for the success of public-private partnerships.

Bloomington Council Hears From Developers

Oct 19, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

Developers are looking at investing in downtown Bloomington, with help from the public sector. Bloomington Aldermen heard from Jeff Giebelhausen and David Bentley during a committee meeting. Each developer had a different proposal for the area. 

Devyn Corp., Tarter Construction, Farnsworth Group

The potential developer of a boutique hotel in downtown Bloomington has a complex legal history with the city. David Bently has extensive holdings in the downtown area and recently bought the Pantagraph Newspaper building. But, speaking on GLT's Sound Ideas Mayor Tari Renner says the city would have to be cautious in entering into an agreement with Bently.

Bently has so far been unsuccessful in a suit over the city's distribution of Tax Increment Financing District money, though that has been appealed to the state supreme court.