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Public outcry over the Miller-Showers Park monolith is met with construction-related obstacles



Bloomington, Indiana – According to a press release dated October 27, Bloomington has decided to push back the site upgrades for the Bicentennial Gateway Project’s construction in Miller-Showers Park until the spring of 2024 in response to public opposition. Some members of the public have referred to the construction as a monolith, and a group of people has sharply criticized it.

Before the most recent notification from the city, the Bloomington Board of Public Works had put the project on hold. The board attempted to vote on October 10 to close a sidewalk and lane so that construction on the structure could start, but they were unsuccessful. Despite the monolith’s approval by the Bloomington City Council in 2018, the project’s present status remains unknown due to board delays.

The city stated in a news release that the decision to pause construction was taken to give staff members time to evaluate input from the general public, the design team, and other city boards, commissions, and agencies.

According to the city, the monolith is a 40-foot aluminum structure that is covered in the word “Bloomington” from top to bottom. Customizable internal LED lights will glow within the monolith. Although the construction of the monolith is the primary focus of the project, the surrounding environment will also be improved through tree planting, curb renovation, and crosswalk renovation.

The city reports that the job has been outsourced to contractors with an estimated cost of $1.1 million. The city awarded contracts totaling $395,105 to Bo-mar Industries for the manufacturing of the structure, $133,925 to architects at Rundell Ernstberger Associates for research and design, and $575,000 to Reed and Sons Construction for site enhancement.

The city claims that the monolith project is one of the initiatives supported by the non-obligatory bicentennial bonds, which are used to finance public works projects. Bicentennial bonds, which the City of Bloomington started selling in 2018, have been used to pay for trails, bike lanes, tree planting, and other upgrades to the city’s public works. The money has not come from government taxes but rather from bonds that Bloomington citizens have bought.

The idea has just lately drawn criticism, perhaps as a result of the public’s lack of connection with the city’s parks and recreation department at the time of its initial proposal. Tim Street, director of the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department, acknowledged that some people had issues but insisted that communication was a top concern.

“Public engagement is important obviously, and we try to take steps with every project to make sure that the public is engaged,” Street said.

With the mockingly named “All Hail the Monolith” Facebook group, the opponents of the monolith have united. Those who are against the project can voice their concerns publicly on this website. It provides forums for people to debate strategies to oppose the building’s construction and exchange humorous memes regarding the structure’s outside look. Concerns over the project are widely held by the group.

To protest the building, Facebook group administrator Allen Rose planned a demonstration. In addition, he founded the Public Art Citizens Committee, a collection of individuals who are angry over the underutilization of local art in current Bloomington initiatives.

“Just a few weeks ago, when we saw the design of it and especially the way it was depicted with the Milky Way behind it, it was so fake and it was so ugly and so boring and so stupid,” Rose said.

Denise Valkyrie has lived in Bloomington for more than 20 years and has contributed to several initiatives aimed at advancing the city’s creative and economic sectors. She voiced her worry that Bloomington’s actual character was not reflected in the structure.

“Bloomington isn’t known for flashy Vegas lights, you know?” Valkyrie said. “We’re more known for being a community that appreciates nature, appreciates education, and celebrates the stone workers that have come before us. I don’t see how this monolith, this gateway, reflects that.”

The project’s lack of local artists and supplies worries the organization even more. Rundell Ernstberger Associates and bo-mar Industries, the project’s construction and design contractors, are both headquartered in Indianapolis.

Additional worries are that it would cause light pollution, which the city’s parks and recreation department says won’t be a problem. On the official City of Bloomington website, they provide an answer to this query, stating that light pollution won’t be an issue because the lights are internal and do not look skyward.

The people’s annoyance is a result of a larger problem: some locals believe that the city government lacks openness and public knowledge when it comes to making decisions that have an impact on them.

“It’s kind of emblematic of dissatisfaction that a lot of locals are having with the way things are going with local government,” Rose said. “So in a way it’s more than just about this particular art project, but a kind of lack of transparency and engagement with the public, leaving people out of the process or just missing their concerns.”

Rose and Valkyrie disagreed that the project should be abandoned in its entirety, despite the opinions of others who think it should be rendered obsolete. A few suggestions for improving the project include redesigns that highlight regional artists and more accurately reflect Bloomington’s culture.

The Facebook group is still lobbying against the monolith in upcoming board meetings and is currently gathering signatures on a petition against it.



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