IN: City's Growth Plan Leaves its Mark

Jan. 31--There's no easy way to summarize Bloomington's 2002 Growth Policies Plan and its seven guiding principles, 24 policies and 87 implementation measures.

There's also no scientific method to gauge all the ways it affected the city and its development over the past 10-plus years. The GPP is a comprehensive plan, something that sets a tone and tries to guide all sorts of government officials, boards and community members.

Still, as planners put pen to paper for the next rendition of the GPP, it's a good time to look back on some of the old one's impacts. Here are some quick glances at the plan's guiding principles and some of the obvious but interesting ways they've played out since it was adopted in 2002.

COMPACT URBAN FORM

What was the goal? Compact urban form was all about fighting urban sprawl. It aimed to keep the community from expanding too far geographically from its urban core. It emphasized increasing residential densities in Bloomington's urban area. And it wanted to shift commercial development to emphasize mixed-use, multi-story construction and infill in undeveloped or vacant areas.

Where can you see it today? Drive down North College Avenue. Apartment complexes opening since the GPP passed include 10th and College, the nearby Park on Morton and a slew of other multistory buildings in the area.

City staff also estimated at a recent plan commission meeting that 2,343 new market-rate apartment bedrooms have been added to the downtown area since 2000. Another 158 were set to open by the fall of 2014.

On the residential density front, the number of people living per square mile in Bloomington jumped significantly between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census data. It was about 3,500 people per square mile in 2000, then rose to nearly 4,000 10 years later. Some argue that most of the new apartments downtown have gone to student renters, thus altering the downtown's character and making it less friendly to other segments of the population.

The city also has discouraged annexation or outward extension of utility services over the last decade, thus limiting expansion of the urban environment.

NURTURE ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRITY

What was the goal? Environmental integrity meant preserving natural resources and promoting sustainability. Outlined policies included Karst feature protection, safeguarding trees and green space, preserving water quality, managing drainage impacts and making development environmentally sensitive.

Where can you see it today? One example is nearly 60 acres of land the city acquired between 2005 and 2009 at the former McDoel Railroad Switchyard in the southern part of Bloomington. It's looking at turning the site into an urban park, and a master plan included ideas such as restoring the Clear Creek corridor and environmental remediation.

In October, the mayor's office announced a $1 million Parks Capital Improvement Plan covering 14 parks and a golf course.

LEVERAGE PUBLIC CAPITAL

What was the goal? Basically, the idea was to spend money wisely in a way that maintained city facilities, improved the area and encouraged private investment. One measure called for using the development process to "acquire land at the appropriate locations for public use."

Where can you see it today? The city hopes to develop a 65-acre certified technology park around 12 acres of land it owns to the north of City Hall. The city plans on using public money to realign and extend streets and to update utility infrastructure, as well as to renovate or demolish buildings. The city then would seek private developers to fill the 12-acre core with a mix of residential, technology and commercial sites, trading shovel-ready sites for city control of design and use of those developments.

MITIGATE TRAFFIC

What was the goal? The aim here was to bolster public transportation services, cut dependency on automobiles and encourage alternative transit such as bikes and walking. One specific measure called for a multi-use trail along the CSX rail corridor.

Where can you see it today? That CSX rail corridor trail is complete today -- now it's called the B-Line Trail. Construction on the 3.1-mile trail started in April of 2008 and wrapped up in 2011. Other multi-use trails have been created on the city's south and north sides, and new bicycle lanes have been designated across the city.

Bloomington Transit ridership increased from just under 2 million in 2002 to 3.4 million in 2012.

CONSERVE COMMUNITY CHARACTER

What was the goal? The intent was neighborhood protection, downtown revitalization and infill. Historic districting was one specific measure.

Where can you see it today? Local, state and national historic districts cover large parts of Bloomington today.

But historic designation can cause some disagreements.

There's currently controversy over whether Indiana University should be allowed to demolish six houses in the University Courts Historic District.

State Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, filed a bill this year that would stop IU from removing the houses.

SUSTAIN ECONOMIC, CULTURAL VIBRANCY

What was the goal? Here the GPP looked at job creation and capital investment. It sought to link economic growth to quality of life issues, calling for a downtown hotel and highlighting the importance of cultural amenities.

Where can you see it today? The Hilton Garden Inn opened at Seventh Street and College Avenue in 2006. And two more hotels are under construction in downtown Bloomington today: a Hyatt Place and a SpringHill Suites by Marriott.

On the arts front, the city has gained the 60-block Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District since the 2002 GPP. Mayor Mark Kruzan announced the idea for BEAD in 2006.

ADVANCE COMMUNICATION AND COORDINATION

What was the goal? This one's for the government wonks and developers. It called for improving the planning process and stoking public involvement. An interesting measure suggested studying the feasibility of creating a consolidated planning department between the city and the county.

Where can you see it today? The city and the county still have their own planning departments. But city planning staff points out that the two work together. The county's planning director, Larry Wilson, is on the steering committee for the GPP revamp. And Bloomington Assistant Planning Director Josh Desmond said his office has been involved in the county's efforts to update plans for a 2-mile fringe around the city.

Copyright 2014 - Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.

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