Johnson Creamery smokestack deemed unsafe; trail closed

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A portion of the B-Line Trail near City Hall and West Seventh Street is closed because of concerns about the safety of the Johnson Creamery building's smokestack.
A portion of the B-Line Trail near City Hall and West Seventh Street is closed because of concerns about the safety of the Johnson Creamery building's smokestack.

The 140-foot-tall smokestack on the Johnson Creamery building at 400 W. Seventh St. has been deemed unsafe by Bloomington officials after a December inspection, and an adjacent section of the B-Line Trail has been closed as a precaution. A detour is in place until repairs can be made.

Bloomington's Housing and Neighborhood Development Department issued an “unsafe building order to repair” to the property owners, Peerless Capital of Elmhurst, Illinois, near Chicago.

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The structure was inspected Dec. 14, 2021, and determined to be potentially dangerous, according to a Thursday news release from the city. On Dec. 21, HAND ordered it to be repaired within 60 days, the release said. The property owner has been notified of its responsibility to repair and has blocked off part of the building's parking lot as a precaution.

"The property containing the smokestack was purchased by Peerless Capital in 2019," HAND Director John Zody said in the news release. "The city itself conducted due diligence on the property in 2017 when reviewing a potential purchase, and learned of significant future maintenance that would be needed to maintain the structural integrity of the smokestack.”

A rendering of the proposed apartment complex north of the Johnson Creamery building shows the view from the B-Line Trail.
A rendering of the proposed apartment complex north of the Johnson Creamery building shows the view from the B-Line Trail.

Pearless Capital plans to turn the surface parking lot north of the Johnson Creamery building into a five-story, 60-unit apartment complex. Michael Cordaro, principal of the company, told The Herald-Times in October that he was working toward breaking ground on the estimated $8 million structure in late spring. He hopes the building will welcome tenants in summer 2023.

A portion of the B-Line Trail is closed near City Hall due to concerns about the safety of the historic Johnson Creamery smokestack on West Seventh Street.
A portion of the B-Line Trail is closed near City Hall due to concerns about the safety of the historic Johnson Creamery smokestack on West Seventh Street.

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In 2021, the property owners approached the Historic Preservation Commission about smokestack restoration. After several months of communication with the property owner, city staff delivered the unsafe order to assure appropriate action, according to the city news release.

The original Johnson Creamery building was completed in 1914, with the smokestack added in 1949. The creamery and its iconic smokestack were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Closed as a creamery in 1987, the facility was restored and remodeled in 1995 to become the Johnson Creamery Business Center.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Johnson Creamery smokestack deemed unsafe; trail closed

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