Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Neighborhood Plan and Capital Improvements

GANA Speaker Series
Bob Wolford, Program Manager
Nate Nickel, Senior Long Range Planner
City of Bloomington

TOPIC: Follow-up to last year's Neighborhood Plan and introduction to the Capital Improvement Fund and other resources to help achieve GANA's goals.

Nate and Bob brought GIS and aerial maps of the neighborhood and spoke to us about the upcoming sidewalk project from Hillsdale to the end of 5th and the bypass. They also discussed the widening of the bypass, and how the City's new Neighborhood Capital Improvement Fund can be used to start implementing some of the objectives found in the Green Acres Neighborhood Plan. Four neighborhoods including Green Acres are eligible to participate in this fund, which is about $250,000.

Some possibilities discussed: sidewalks on 3rd to connect with the new Sahara Mart, evening out the street pavement (which is causing bicycle accidents—Bob suggested a call to public works, where Susie Johnson maintains a paving list, Nate recommended the Alternative Transportation Greenways Group), better street lighting, trees along major streets such as Hillsdale (no changes likely until current drainage work is done—see below), as well as gateway features, traffic calming/city repair and pocket parks.

A $450,000 project to install sidewalks and storm drains will begin in a few weeks on the East end of 5th Street, working its way over to Jefferson Street.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), a citizen's advisory group, will be holding hearings regarding the forthcoming 45/46 bypass widening. Bob and Nate stressed how important it is for neighborhood representation at these meetings. Unfortunately, they are scheduled for the last Wednesday of the month—exactly when GANA's regular meetings are held! Options: send a volunteer to represent us to MPO, or change our own meeting date and descend en masse on the MPO from here on out. Ed Hartke will attend in February and let us know what's happening.

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GANA Meeting Minutes

7-9 p.m., First United Church on 3rd St.


  • Current state of GANA: people leaving, coming in, new e-mail list, need more people to take responsibility.
  • Report: sign toppers.
  • Report: SPEA Professor Burney Fischer project to work with GANA and other neighborhood associations on cares and concerns we have with our "urban forest."
  • Report: Walkable Cities workshop.
  • Notice: H-T reports night attack on Eastgate lane.
  • Discussion to select projects that we want to implement from the Green Acres Neighborhood Plan in 2008.

Georgia Schaich, Kathy Ruesink, Al Ruesink, John Gaus, Jessica Gaus, Kevin Polk, Ann Kreilkamp, Jelene Campbell, Diane Dormant, Aggie Sarkissian, Adam Shahrani and Rebeca Shahrani

The Process
Ann opened the meeting by announcing that she will be handling the meeting agendas and speakers, so that Georgia, who has borne the brunt of this work in recent years, can attend to other commitments for awhile. "It feels like in many ways like we're starting over," said Ann. "Many of the people who have put enormous energy into making Green Acres what it is have moved away: Sylvia Bruggen, Jiangmei Wu, Julia Jackson, Nathan Harman and Maggie Jesseph. We still have a strong core, but we need to keep reaching out."

In a similar vein, Kevin discussed the GANA list serve, which he pointed out should be more secure and better archived than simple email. However, IU shut down our list serve when its manager left last year, so we had tried to rebuild it on Google Groups, which makes it easy to switch managers. However, getting a Google account seemed like a lot of hassle to several people present. That may explain why only a few people signed up. After some discussion, Kevin agreed to run the list serve from his private server. Those present seemed comfortable with that because Kevin is a permanent resident and can provide log-ins for temporary/replacement list administrators where needed. (Follow-up: all 67 people who have received Ann's announcements are now on the list, and anyone who signs up at a GANA event will be put on the list, too).

Kevin also requested digital photos of Green Acres in all seasons for this blog.

All present supported a proposal to apply for a Small and Simple Grant (deadline: February 18) for Sign Toppers with the GANA logo and the words "Green Acres Neighborhood" to be installed above all the street signs in the neighborhood. This would cost approximately $315, plus a one-to-one match from the City of Bloomington. The sign toppers would help define Green Acres as a destination, not just a short-cut. Kevin will take the lead on this and several other grants for GANA this year.

There was also some discussion of a related project to install permanent signs to replace the badly weathered temporary signs that periodically announce GANA events. This might be a good candidate for a Neighborhood Improvement Grant (deadline March 7).

Georgia suggested that we also pursue a Neighborhood Clean-Up Grant (deadline March 17).

Ann announced that Burney Fischer, who teaches "Urban Forest Management," a senior/graduate student level course at IU, would like to use Green Acres as a case study neighborhood for his students, who will do survey/inventory in the neighborhood in conjunction with Lee Huss, the City Forrester. (Burney also led an effort to inventory Bloomington's trees last year.) We would get a copy of the final student report.

Ann mentioned that the Herald-Times had mentioned an attack on a woman walking on Eastgate Lane at 11:30 p.m. several weeks back. Her assailant tore at her clothes, but was scared off by noises in the neighborhood. Student energy, perhaps?

Ann attended the amazing Walkable Cities workshop sponsored by CONA on January 19 (here's her report).

We briefly discussed a list of projects from the 2007 Neighborhood Plan. These included:
  • Gateway features
  • City repair
  • Pocket parks
  • Bus shelters
  • A sidewalk on 3rd st.
  • Drainage on 5th st.
  • Bypass planning
  • Permaculture
Georgia asked whether anyone knew why the trees were being cut down next to Sahara Mart on 3rd.

Our speakers for this month, Nate Nickel and Bob Woolford, from the Bloomington Planning Department arrived and the meeting was adjourned around 8:15 for refreshments and a break before their presentation.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

9 Houses for Sale in Green Acres

For details and pictures, please visit

Individual Properties
(with Broker, MLS numbers)

409 N Clark St: $132,000 (F.C. Tucker, 10050076)
3 bed, 1.5 bath, 936 sq ft, car port, 0.14 acres
NOTE: Property sold 1/9/09 for $124,000

2415 E 4th St: $134,900 (Century 21, 10050124)
2 bed+study, 1 bath, 1250 sq ft, 1-car attached garage, 0.25 acres
NOTE: Property sold 5/4/08 for $130,00

2611 E 5th St: $155,000 (Century 21, 10049463)
3 bed+study, 1 bath, 1675 sq ft, 0.19 acres
NOTE: Property sold 6/30/08 for $146,000

6-Pack of Houses for $1.35 Million
ER Lewis & Company, LLC is selling six houses in Green Acres together as a package for $1,349,000. The houses are leased through August, 2009. The properties (with MLS numbers) include:

2600 Dekist St (10050390)
5 bed+study, 2.5 bath, 2270 sq ft, 0.26 acres

422 N Clark St (10050384)
5 bed, 2 bath, 2368 sq ft, car port, 0.1 acres
NOTE: Property sold 4/25/08 for $238,875

428 N Clark St (10050376)
5 bed, 2 bath, 2368 sq ft, car port, 0.1 acres
NOTE: Property sold 4/25/08 for $216,125

2304 E 8th St (10050375)
4 bed, 2 bath, 1664 sq ft, 0.15 acres
Note: Property sold with 330 N Roosevelt 5/29/08 for $382,00

330 N Roosevelt (10050372)
4 bed, 2 bath, 1488 sq ft, 0.14 acres
Note:Property sold with 2304 E 8th St 5/29/08 for $382,000

2222 E. 5th (10050389)
5 bed+study, 2 bath, 2500 sq ft, 2-car garage, 0.22 acres

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Walkable Communities Workshop with Dan Burden

City Council Chambers
10:00 am to noon
Sponsored by CONA (Council of Neighborhood Associations) and B-Top (Bloomington Transportation Options

Report by Ann Kreilkamp,
February 4, 2008

Dan Burden is a nationally recognized authority on developing, promoting and evaluating alternative transportation facilities, traffic calming practices and sustainable community design. Dan is the executive director of Walkable Communities and partner and principal designer of Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin of Orlando Florida,, 1-866-347-2734.

Dan’s philosophy and work follows in the tradition of urbanist Jane Jacobs and her 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a powerful critique of U.S. urban renewal policies of the 1950s. Jacobs, says Dan, prompted us to start thinking about returning cities to what they used to be: dense, complex, diverse, multi-use, protected, pedestrian and bike friendly centers for human and cultural exchange.

Now 64 years old, Dan has documented the walking and biking conditions in 200 U.S cities and towns since 1996 and says he expects to go another 12 years. Armed with hundreds of images from his travels, Dan demonstrated how walkability is both cornerstone and key to designing liveable communities that create conditions to inspire whole, happy, healthy lives for those who live in them.

Dan wants to turn planners into heroes, by designing walkable cities. After noting that streets now make up 85% of the public realm, he discussed a variety of tools available to transform streets, including:

  • curb extensions
  • tree wells
  • boulevards and medians
  • trees and planters
  • two-way streets with narrow lanes and bike lanes
  • lamps
  • human scale
  • functional art
  • roundabouts
  • buildings with transparent windows that face and protect the street
Most anyone in the crowd that filled City Council chambers nearly to capacity for Dan's talk would recognize the many slides he showed of Anytown, U.S.A.: anonymous strip-malls and desolate parking lots relieved only by chain link fences around far-apart, run-down businesses—all ripped through by straight, monotonous, multi-lane roads.

Some of these photos were “before” shots of areas as they used to be, before far-sighted citizens, local officials, and developers joined forces to transform them into highly complex, diverse, protected, multi-use, green spaces that people flock to on foot or by mass transit. And, for those areas still desolated, Dan utilized computerized renderings to gradually cover these ruined areas with businesses, restaurants, plants, trees, houses, paths, public art and people, walking, biking sitting on benches, playing, talking.

Let us imagine, for example, how Dan might consider what has become perhaps Bloomington’s most notorious intersection, 3rd street and the bypass, soul-deadening to motorists and downright terrifying to pedestrians and cyclists.

First, let us draw out a few implications from one likely assumption: that the trend towards more expensive oil continues to increase. At some point the number of cars on roads will then begin to decrease to the point where the long-planned widening of the bypass is actually canceled. This unusual about-face helps create transformational change in the way public officials, developers and the general public thinks about the town in which we live.

A la Dan Burden, in re-imagining that intersection, let’s imagine buildings that house both businesses and upper-floor dwellings close to and facing the streets with parking behind, trees and plantings and, at the actual intersection, a roundabout with beautiful plantings and benches and courtyard for pedestrians to cross to all four corners.

Furthermore, at least half of the parking areas of both the mall and the strip mall near it on 3rd street are also transformed—into a parklike setting with winding paths and outdoor market stalls for local products and areas for people to gather for performance and discussion.

Third street itself has been transformed, all the way from its intersection with Highway 446 on the east, to make room for a high speed rail or trolley all the way to College St. That and other mass transport share space with one 9-foot lane for car traffic, one 7-foot lane for bicycles, and one 6-foot lane for car parking, all going both directions, and you get the idea. (All these size dimensions are those Dan, after long experience, judges optimal). Voila! Third Street has restructured itself—from a frustrating and dangerous auto drive-through corridor into multiple destinations that foster “bumpability,” a word Dan favors to indicate humans interacting up close and personal, rather than locked inside machines competing with other machines to get nowhere fast.

After viewing Dan’s presentation, it’s easy to conjure up this kind of transformation of East Bloomington into a magnetic hub and draw for people from all parts of this city and county to gather and not only do business, but meet and greet and celebrate.

With example after example, Dan showed us how any urban area that has been gradually desecrated by our insidious worship of automobiles at the expense of the people in them can be rejuvenated, come back to life, provide a healthy and welcoming atmosphere for human habitation and exchange. Walkable communities put urban environments back on a scale for sustainability of resources (both natural and economic) and lead to more social interaction, more local businesses, plus the bonuses of increased physical fitness, diminished crime and social alienation.

By designing for people rather than for cars, we return to the idea that cities were invented to maximize exchange (goods, culture, friendship, knowledge) and minimize travel.

Dan pointed out how the dominance of the automobile in design of cities has created the fattest nation in the history of the world, with diabetes and depression running rampant in both adults and children. 20% of every dollar earned now goes into medical expenses that also entail all sorts of hidden costs, for example larger hospital gurneys and morgue tables that now cost two or three times more.

Dan reported that the lowest point in his journey so far was in a little town next to Littleton, Colorado, where not only do they not have a town center, but public restroom facilities are limited to two portable plastic outhouses. Dan asked the city fathers when they were going to build decent restroom facilities for visitors, and was told that they were afraid the town’s teenagers would destroy them if they did. To Dan, this just shows how much the desertification and anonymity of our car culture depresses our teens and leads to outbreaks of frustration and violence. And yet, he said as he put up the next image of teens laughing and talking on a downtown street, in the very next town over, which has a town center, teens are welcomed.

I’ll end this report with a few more facts/opinions from Dan that are worth pondering:

  • Australia in the ’80s was like the U.S. in Midwest cities in the ’50s—more focused on people than cars.
  • Seattle: 800 blocks now have back-in diagonal parking—much safer.
  • Florida has the lowest rate of volunteerism (and almost no walkable cities).
  • Commuting makes people more unhappy than anything else. (From a google search: Americans now spend more than 100 hours a year commuting to work, for an average drive-time of 24 At an nationwide average drive-time of about 24.3 minutes.)
  • U.S. children have a [free-roaming] range 1/9 of their parents when they were children.
  • Even though our GNP has grown hugely since the Depression, our happiness line has flattened.
  • Least healthy [and least walkable] cities, in this order: Las Vegas, Houston, Atlanta, Detroit.
  • Narrow streets (9 or 10 feet lanes), make drivers slow down and be remain vigilant. As streets widen, traffic accidents increase.
  • Parking: need to change from “minimum required” to “maximum allowed.” Vancouver, B.C., has the greatest density in North America, and they’ve been reducing traffic for ten years straight.
  • Bike lanes: have 22 benefits, only two of which are for the bikes themselves (so even without bikes, bike lanes are essential). To a question about how car door openings are a danger when there is a car parking lane next to a bike lane, Dan said, no problem: “Just make the car parking lane 6 feet and the bike lane 7 feet. Usually, it’s the reverse.”
  • To a question: How does narrowing a street allow it to carry more capacity? His answer is complex, but for one thing, it causes speeds to go down, and so requires less space between cars. Above 30 mph, streets lose capacity (San Luis Obispo a good example).
  • Roundabouts: good if designed for cars to go through between 15 and 20 mph. When proposed, 70% of the people will be against it. After 7 weeks operational, 70% will be for it.
  • Land use needs to partner with transportation to yield lower cost and better tax base.
  • If a road is wider than two lanes, then screen and shield so no more than two lanes are visible
  • Streets need to feel enclosure (example: tree canopies).
  • Build networks rather than freeways.
  • Each locale needs to celebrate its own characteristics.
  • Design to get away from fear and towards hope.

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