Downtown, river concepts presented

Images courtesy of City of Jasper
Among the ideas suggested at a planning meeting Tuesday evening for Jasper’s downtown and Patoka River area was installing a landscaped median in Main Street south of the courthouse. 

By CANDY NEAL
Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Main and Mill streets could be extended to reach the Patoka River.

Sidewalks around the Square could be widened to accommodate seating and landscaping that would encourage people to linger in the area.

Empty industrial buildings could be repurposed to serve as hotels, urban-style apartments, museums and galleries.

Second Street could be extended from Jackson Street to Third Avenue and be used as a pedestrian walkway called River Road.

These and other ideas for enhancing Jasper’s downtown and river areas were shared at a 90-minute meeting Tuesday evening at the Cabby O’Neill Gymnasium.

“The things you are going to see tonight are concepts. They’re not final designs,” consultant Barry Alberts told the 180 people at the meeting “They are, hopefully, well-thought-out concepts and concepts that we’ve spent a lot of time analyzing and thinking about and trying to connect to the things the community has told us is important to them.”

Alberts, of Louisville-based CityVisions, and consultant David Gamble of Boston-based Gamble Associates were hired by the city in December to suggest land enhancements for the area that is roughly encompassed by Veterans Memorial Bridge, Central Green, the public library and the Riverwalk plaza and stretches down Third Avenue to the Schnitzelbank Restaurant. The ideas they presented Tuesday come from the information they’ve collected since January through research, interviews and study groups, including a public meeting held in April.

The consultants proposed extending Main Street to the river and installing a pedestrian bridge to cross the river. Gamble noted that the river area has most of its features on the north side.

The new bridge would connect to the Riverwalk on the south side of the river. “So you get a network where the river is the center,” Gamble said. “Something that’s the edge becomes the center.”

The consultants also suggested extending Mill Street as a pedestrian walkway to the river, with the promenade ending at steps leading to the river. Another suggestion is to add another walkway onto the Riverwalk, on the north side of the river at Jackson Street near the former Jasper Cabinet building, that could be accessed at the promenade.

Extending Second Street between the former Jasper Cabinet building and the train depot also was suggested. That would create a road that could give access to a nearby marketplace, thus encouraging pedestrian activity.

“It makes perfect sense,” Gamble said. “It could add a lot of character to the area, and it could be programmed so that it is active more than just on Saturdays or one or two days a week.”

Gamble said that Main Street south of the courthouse could be enhanced by constructing a median in the street. “There’s a lot of pavement there for the amount of traffic that falls on it,” Gamble said. The median would remove some of that pavement and would help to handle stormwater runoff, he said.

The sidewalks’ width would stay the same, but new lights, plants and a bike lane would be added. The changes would require parallel parking instead of the angle parking that’s now on the street, Gamble said.

“This could be a model street for the future of the city,” he said. “It adds to the environmental benefits and character of the street.”

On the Square, the sidewalks could be widened to allow for more seating, landscaping to provide more shade and space for signage.

“It would give you the circulation around the courthouse, but it would make (the pedestrian) more important,” Gamble said. “It would create more pleasurable places to sit and relax. It would provide a place to stay and not just pass through.”

Ideas for repurposing the empty industrial buildings in the downtown area include the Jasper Cabinet, Hoosier Desk and Veneer Mill buildings. Alberts showed designs that incorporate a restaurant, loft apartments and event space at the Veneer Mill building, which sits along the river at East Sixth Street. Part of the Jasper Cabinet building could be removed and the space could hold an internal courtyard for a hotel that could be in the building. The Hoosier Desk building, which is along Mill Street near Third Avenue, could have loft apartments, restaurants, a studio, museum, classrooms and meeting rooms.

Alberts presented these only as ideas. The buildings’ owners have not announced their plans for the buildings.

The consultants said the city’s ties to the wood industry could be incorporated through artwork and art-inspired seating along the developments.

Alberts said he hopes to get comments and guidance from the public to fine-tune the ideas into formal recommendations to the city.

“We believe that everything that we are showing you tonight are things that are appropriate to Jasper,” he said, “that are viable and that are financially feasible.”

Resident Rosina Schuler said at the end of the meeting that she thought the ideas were great. “We’ve got a lot of potential here,” she said. “Build on what you got and don’t tear anything down. Let’s stick together and don’t be hasty about anything.”

The complete presentation can be viewed here (JASPER PUBLIC MEETING 2_final_AUG_20_2013.pdf).

Questions and comments should be sent to Darla Blazey, Jasper’s community development and planning director, at dblazey@ci.jasper.in.us or 482-4255.

It will be four to six weeks before the consultants present their official recommendations to the city council, Alberts said.

Contact Candy Neal at cneal@dcherald.com.




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