The West Bloomington Task Force was convened in early 2008 by the Economic Development Council of the Bloomington-Normal Area and the City of Bloomington. The Task Force met regularly during the year. Through out the planning process, members invited participation from other leaders through large community summits, resulting in broad representation from Bloomington organizations and residents, and an open and vigorous discussion of the neighborhood’s future.
Seizing Opportunities for Renewal
Our neighborhoods, Olde Towne and Gridley, Allin and Prickett (GAP), are long-established areas of Bloomington located directly west of downtown along Market Street. Our area is home to historic housing and long-standing churches, social service agencies and small businesses.
In 2007, community and business organizations representing the public, private and non-profit sectors started discussing the challenges confronting GAP and Olde Towne and the steps that could be taken to revitalize our community. This area was chosen as a target of study for a variety of reasons. First, the City’s Comprehensive Plan identified the Westside as an area of concern and one in need of intervention. Second, a number of organizations had highlighted the real need to provide assistance and support to these neighborhoods.
Third and finally, this area faces many unique challenges compared to the rest of the city. Historic homes can be found throughout our area and connect us to our heritage. As these conversations evolved into a more formal process, we realized that we must channel our energy into action to realize positive change. We formed the West Bloomington Task Force and hired a consultant, Teska Associates, Inc. to facilitate a planning process to achieve comprehensive community development.
The West Bloomington Task Force
The first meeting of the West Bloomington Task Force convened in February 2008 with more than 20 people in attendance, including participants from the City of Bloomington, the Economic Development Council of the Bloomington-Normal Area, State Farm Bank, several area companies, non-profit organizations and social service agencies, and the GAP and Olde Towne neighborhood associations. We made commitments to this neighborhood revitalization effort, which will serve as a model of change for other neighborhoods in the Bloomington-Normal area, and to empower our neighbors and fellow community members during this exciting process.
Our responsibilities on the Task Force included providing strategic guidance to the project, representing community desires, formulating strategies, serving as ambassadors to the community at-large, prioritizing improvement ideas, and acting as stewards of the planning process and to the final plan recommendations. At that first meeting we described how we envisioned our community in 10 years, using words like vibrant, empowered, unique, diverse, friendly and safe to describe our hopes and dreams for the future. At subsequent Task Force meetings we added new members, including more local residents, representatives from educational institutions and regional governmental agencies.
We created and implemented a community survey to begin accumulating information on the key issues in the minds of local residents. Using this information allowed us to identify certain themes on which to focus our attention: economic development, safety and housing, and youth and education.