by: Diane Benjamin
Bloomington Mayors have been spending money trying to revitalize downtown since at least 1986 – that’s when the first TIF district was created.
TIF districts provide money for the City to spend however they want – they keep the difference between the current taxes collected on properties and what is collected after renovations, including the part that other government agencies and schools would get. It’s a slush fund for government. Remember when Steve Stockton found millions of TIF dollars they had forgotten about?
Clear back in 1998, $300,000 in TIF money was used to help renovate the Heritage Enterprises building north of the old Courthouse.
In 1991 a Uof I task force surveyed citizens on what should be done downtown. Close to 25% said fewer bars. In 1993 a Downtown Task Force headed by former mayor Steve Stockton determined public money was needed. Also in 1993 $700,000 in TIF money was given to a developer for the Livingston Department store. In 1994 the City gave a developer $1 million from City funds to redevelop other buildings.
In 1997 a Chicago firm was hired for $75,000 to study downtown. The same firm recommended $7.5 million in spending to improve downtown. In 1999 a feasibility study costing $30,000 was done for an arena. In 2000 $14.4 million was spent on the cultural district. Sales tax was raised from 7.25 to 7.5 to pay for it.
In 2001 $385,000 in City funds was given to renovate the Castle Theater, in 2007 it went bankrupt. In 2003 the Council voted to build the Coliseum for $35.2 million, it opened in 2006, final cost $35.8 million.
In 2005 $2.2 million was loaned to a developer, but in 2007 the loan was forgiven.
The Downtown Bloomington Association has been funded by the City for years, it was supposed to be self-sufficient by 2011. This year they got another $90,000.
In 2008 another Chicago consultant was paid $200,000 for a downtown plan. He report then the City had already spent $9 million in TIF money since 1986.
The current Council has funded a $30,000 hotel feasibility study and a $74,670 lighting study. New lighting will only cost $8.5 million. Taxpayers get to pay to fix the 7-year-old parking garage, maybe 20% of the total cost.
The Chocolatier moved out of downtown Bloomington
Lancasters just closed.
I’m sure not all the spending by the City of Bloomington in an attempt to renovate downtown is included here. There is no master guidebook to past spending. City government would rather you forget.
It looks like this effort started in 1986.
After may millions of dollars, exactly what is better now?
When will government realize they have failed?
Since Chris Koos is Tari Renner’s model, never. Maybe when Bloomington is $100 million in debt for downtown, the leadership will be happy. Koos isn’t stopping, so don’t count on it.