The following press release was sent to the Bloomingtonian Monday:
November 21, 2022
For more information, please contact:
Mary Catherine Carmichael, Director of Public Engagement, Office of the Mayor
[email protected] or 812-349-3406
Andrew Krebbs, Communications Director, Office of the Mayor
[email protected] or 812-349-3406
Showers Plaza To Be Renamed Fernandez Plaza in Honor of John Fernandez, Former Mayor of Bloomington
What: Mayor John Hamilton will dedicate Showers Plaza as the Fernandez Plaza during the annual Holiday Market.
Who: Mayor Hamilton will be joined by other community leaders to honor former Mayor Fernandez. The event is free and open to the public.
When: Saturday, November 26, 2022, at 10 a.m.
Where: Plaza outside City Hall, 401 N. Morton St.
Why: Showers Plaza is becoming Fernandez Plaza in recognition of Mayor John Fernandez’s commitment to public service, particularly his exceptional service to Bloomington. John Fernandez, a first-generation American with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs and a Juris Doctor from the Indiana University School of Law, served as Bloomington’s Mayor from 1996-2003. His public service moved to a national stage when in 2009 he was nominated by President Barack Obama to the post of Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, leading the Economic Development Administration. He served in this role until 2012. Today, he is the Global Chief Innovation Officer of Dentons, a purpose-driven global law firm, and serves on the IU Foundation Board of Directors. Mayor Fernandez guided Bloomington through changes during a seminal period of the global economy. Under his leadership, Bloomington thrived and became a more safe and civil city due to his administration’s work with social justice and social service issues. It also became a more welcoming city as his accomplishments were diverse and inclusive, including focusing on varying transportation methods, welcoming cultural tourism, and establishing business-friendly infrastructure that encouraged growth and jobs in the wake of factory closures. While he was in office he prioritized a revitalization of the downtown, bringing in more than $100 million in new investments. He also worked with business and Indiana University leaders to launch Bloomington’s Life Sciences Partnership, a collaboration that created more than 3,700 jobs and secured more than $243 million in private investments. John Fernandez’s visionary leadership served Bloomington during his time in office while preparing our city for the future.
Background: The Shower Brothers Furniture factory relocated from Grant Street to Morton street after a fire destroyed the Grant Street factory in 1884. The new factory, which spanned 15 acres, opened in 1910 and became a thriving, modern workplace for up to 2,500 people. At its peak, the Showers Brothers Company produced more than 700,000 pieces of furniture a year, enough to fill 16 train-car loads a day. Showers was known for its liberal employee benefits and diversity in hiring at a time when these practices were not necessarily the norm. The building was constructed for function, as it had to support heavy machinery and inventory and accommodate the work within. The building’s double-leaf doors facilitated the movement of goods and the now-iconic sawtooth roof both accommodated the manufacturing process and supported high windows that allowed for light and air.
The factory closed in 1955 and was eventually sold to Indiana University for storage. In the mid-1980’s Mayor Tomi Allison and community leaders were interested in bringing new life to Bloomington’s downtown and bridging the east and west sides of the city. The City, CFC Properties, and Indiana University worked together and by 1995, the City of Bloomington had a new City Hall and a new mayor, John Fernandez.
In front of the new building where a loading dock used to be are walkways and a limestone fountain spilling bowl commissioned from Texas artist Brad Goldberg. South of the building, between City Hall and the old railroad depot, was the new parking lot, which seemed to Mayor Fernandez a good spot to host the farmers market, which had outgrown its smaller site on sixth street. Shade structures were built, the market moved, and community space was born.
The plaza has since become a place of gathering, a place of peaceful protest and solemn vigil, a place where new officers and firefighters are sworn in, a place where marriages have started, and a place where City staff hold meetings, eat lunch, and breathe in a little fresh air during their work days. It hosts the yields of farmers, the work of artists, and the music of local musicians. It is a place of connection and community as in the years since City Hall and the Farmers Market moved to Morton Street, the B-line has been built and increased the importance of this place as an active and inviting community gathering space that invites Bloomingtonians from all walks of life.
Today’s release is available online at bloomington.in.gov/news/2022/11/21/5400.