By Lori Hoevener
I’ve spent many hours, during these months of the pandemic, walking in Bloomington’s lovely old core neighborhoods near where I reside. I’ve always felt immensely lucky that our small city still has that increasingly rare connection with the past that makes present-day Bloomington such an attractive place to live.
The term “core neighborhood” has, to me, always been about much more than simply location and proximity to downtown Bloomington: It refers to that underlying and historic fabric that over the decades has created the Bloomington we know and love today.
How is it, then, that members of our City government fail to recognize the invaluable asset that these neighborhoods are? How is it possible that City planners are instead aggressively pursuing policies that will almost certainly do irreparable damage to our core neighborhoods?
Imagine Bloomington without the historic courthouse that comprises the heart of our Downtown Square. During the 1980s, misguided modernizers argued that the courthouse should be destroyed and replaced with a more up-to-date structure. If they had succeeded (and they almost did), none of us would enjoy the aesthetic and historical contribution our courthouse makes to the quality of life in Bloomington.
The core neighborhoods are no different. Once they are gone, they are gone forever.
As a single woman homeowner, I, like so many of my neighbors, have sunk the vast majority of my resources into repairing and restoring my 1952 home. It is my most significant asset, and I made a conscious decision to invest heavily in it because I believed in a Bloomington that valued these historic neighborhoods. To say I feel a sense of betrayal at the hands of the city is to put it mildly.
Why are our city leaders not pursuing the numerous parcels that either lay vacant or are for sale along South Walnut Street, West First Street, and West Second Street? Plenty of locations near downtown exist for the City to act in pursuit of affordable housing, and more will soon be available as the hospital moves east. Why must density initiatives target the core neighborhoods, when those neighborhoods are virtually unanimous in rejecting the prospect of more student luxury apartment blocks in their midst?
There are so many reasons to reject this latest attempt by the City to turn the core neighborhoods into a playground for wealthy students and private equity firms. What about the Comprehensive Growth Plan that explicitly states that the core neighborhoods are not to be the focus of increased density? What about the enrollment cliff for which IU is currently preparing? What about last year’s democratic process that decisively defeated this misbegotten initiative? What about all of the cities across America where trendy upzoning has done irreparable harm?
And that truly what it comes down to: First and foremost, City officials have a fundamental responsibility to Do No Harm. I strongly urge the Plan Commission and the City Council to act as a brake on the City’s harmful and utterly unnecessary plans.