Bloomington nonprofit looks at location options as convention center looks into potential expansion

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Officials at a nonprofit working to help at-risk women in Bloomington are worried about their future as the nearby Monroe Convention Center looks to expand.

My Sister’s Closet has been located on South College Avenue since 2015. The organization works to empower women with tools for employment--everything from resume help to a shop for work attire. The organization said its current location gives them plenty of parking, visibility from the road, a spot on the bus line in a safe part of town and an affordable rent. Now it’s starting a fundraising campaign to prepare for any need for a new location in the future.

“We can’t be caught without a place because we are serving a lot of people coming through here,” said Sandy Keller, the group's founder and executive director.

Keller said the land is owned by the county government. She recently received a letter from the leasing agent offering a lease renewal through October 2019 for now. She's concerned about what will happen next.

“We don’t have anything after that unless they decide to extend it,” Keller said.

The executive director of the Monroe Convention Center said they’re only in the beginning stages of the potential project after a food and beverage tax became effective in February.

“At this point we’re just now starting to collect those funds. There is a Convention Center Advisory Commission that has been formed, but we’re still very, very much in the beginning stages of this project,” said Talisha Coppock, executive director of the Monroe Convention Center.

Coppock said they hope to meet with an architect later in the year to look at the layout.

“Currently we have 30 residential units and seven commercial units. And many of those leases were set to expire at the end of 2018. We did reach out and offer an opportunity to go ahead and extend those leases to the end of 2019 just because we can see where we are, see what we actually need to use in this phase of the plan,” Coppock said.

Coppock said it’s too early to say what happens after 2019. But Keller said they can’t wait to plan ahead.

“I think that's the only choice we've got. If we're getting a letter like that, I think we have to prepare and make the assumption that we will be homeless come October 2019,” Keller said.

So as the nonprofit celebrates its 20th anniversary this week, Keller said they’ve set a fundraising goal of $750,000, an amount she said would be enough to put down a deposit on a new space.

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