By: Diane Benjamin
Yesterday I took a road trip to downtown Decatur. Since Tim Gleason was hired to make Bloomington’s downtown like Decatur’s, I wanted to see what has been done there.
Have you heard comments about matching awnings? Below are on two sides of office space. The windows are covered with closed blinds.
Have you heard Bloomington needs green space downtown? Decatur’s downtown has two, the one on the right has been there for many decades:
Does this look familiar?
Bloomington is getting their own signs, that discussion started pre-Gleason. Maybe somebody saw Decatur’s and decided Bloomington needed them too? Note the street lights too.
During the day there are a lot of people downtown because of major employers. ADM bought a pharmaceuticals manufacturing building after the company closed. There are numerous large banks and WSOY radio has a huge building. Below are samples. Regions Bank is at the south end of the ADM building.
Retail is a small part of the downtown. Some shops and restaurants exist on Merchant Street:
A few more shops exist on E Prairie:
North Main has some storefronts that add little to downtown. It’s hard to tell if the spaces are empty or if the businesses are open.
Tim Gleason claims he wants downtown Bloomington to be a destination. Decatur’s is not. According to some of the residents, once work hours are over downtown is mostly deserted. There are a few high end restaurants but not much else open.
Bloomington has two entertainment venues that don’t draw people downtown on a consistent basis. Decatur has an ancient movie theater that may draw some people.
Unless major employers decide to build downtown, the two have little in common. Since the City Center is now Veterans Parkway, I don’t see that happening. Bloomington at least has the bar scene, Decatur doesn’t have the hoards of drunks.
Bloomington has the added problem of asbestos and underground infrastructure with the deserted buildings. If Renner gets his candidates elected he will want to use eminent domain to take properties for a Connect Transit transfer station. I bet the price paid will not take into account the cost of leveling the historic buildings and preparing the properties for the station. That will be a “surprise” for later.