Major changes in the works for Elkhart’s Civic Plaza and Central Park

By August 31, 2018Elkhart, Featured News

There’s even more exciting news for downtown Elkhart, with the city’s Redevelopment Commission moving forward with efforts to improve the Civic Plaza and Central Park.

The goal of the project is to create a more engaging downtown space for residents and visitors to gather year-round during major events and day-to-day use. Vibrant Communities supports projects that enhance community gathering places.

Here is the full text of the city of Elkhart’s press release on the Civic Plaza and Central Park:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 28, 2018

Elkhart Redevelopment Commission selects REA as
design team for placemaking project at Central Plaza

ELKHART (August 28, 2018) – The Elkhart Redevelopment Commission has selected a design team for a placemaking* project on the Civic Plaza and Central Park (Central Plaza) in downtown Elkhart. Rundell Ernstberger Associates (REA) will work in tandem with city staff and most importantly, the community, to develop a design for the space that facilitates better utilization – both daily and during events – and creates a vibrant civic gathering place.

“In just three years, we went from hosting five downtown events to over 50,” said Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese. “With so much activity and investment in the area, it has prompted an important discussion about how we utilize the Central Plaza and how it serves as the center of downtown activity. My vision for a revitalized downtown is a modern area, with additional public and private amenities, that accommodates large events as well as daily social engagement. The design must appeal to residents and visitors of all ages and give them a reason to visit the park year-round.”

REA specializes in providing urban design, landscape architecture, planning, and civil engineering services. The firm has worked with the City of Elkhart for many years on various planning and economic development initiatives, including the 2017 update to the City’s Central Business District Development and Design Standards. They have also worked as a prime consultant and collaborator to corporations, municipalities, governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, private institutions, and universities in more than 20 states. One such project is Detroit’s Campus Martius Park, which has been named one of the best public squares in the U.S. and Canada by Project for Public Spaces, Inc. Locally, REA also planned and designed Beutter Park in Mishawaka’s Riverfront District.

In total, the City received 12 proposals and evaluated each one based on experience, past performance, quality, and a demonstrated understanding of the project. Strong consideration was also given to the consultant’s experience in creative community engagement, as any successful endeavor must reflect the needs and perspectives of those who live, work, and play in the downtown.

“I am excited by the opportunity to hear from residents and incorporate their feedback in a transformational project that reflects our unique identity and encourages private investment in adjacent areas,” Neese said. “Placemaking is the future of economic development and plays an undeniable role in talent attraction and retention. It is important that residents feel connected to local parks and want to provide feedback that will help improve their quality of life and the City as a whole.”

The Redevelopment Commission expects a total budget of $1.5 million for this project, inclusive of all expenses and paid by the downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenue. TIF is generated by local property tax investments in designated areas in the City and must be used to fund local public improvements in the same area. The planning process will begin in September and is anticipated to take three to four months to complete.

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*Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being.

One Comment

  • Ambar Alvarez says:

    I solely believe that we need a parking building. We have many business with lots of employees and a large number of clients and events.
    The free public parking squares are too far and very small for the businesses just around Civic Plaza and Central Park.
    We have the homeless living on the benches of Civic Plaza and under in the parking area. I’ve heard of Elkhart Public Library employees get parking tickets on the Plaza parking; each parking spot is terribly narrow under the Plaza.
    I look forward to the meeting this coming week.

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