Consultants suggest improvements to Jasper

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Jasper’s downtown and riverfront can become more active and viable, consultants working on a master plan for those areas said Wednesday.

Overall, the city can enact projects that will create a more visible connection between the downtown and the Riverwalk, add to the Riverwalk, provide more housing, encourage more activity around the Square and in now-vacant buildings and make the downtown more active.

Consultants Barry Alberts of Lousiville-based CityVisions and David Gamble of Boston-based Gamble and Associates gave the Jasper Common Council an abbreviated presentation of what they will include in their recommendations. Their suggestions, for the most part, are the same ideas presented at a public meeting in August.

“Instead of looking at the riverfront as one area and the courthouse square as another area, you see from the types of things we are proposing and you have responded to favorably, this is all one system,” Alberts said. “There are a number of things that need to be done to cement that system.”

Alberts started with the Square.

“Courthouse Square is a wonderful, almost iconic, version of a town square. But it needs some additional activation,” he said. “It needs some vibrancy in terms of not just getting people to come for one particular activity and leave, but to stay to enjoy the Square and circulate around the Square.”

Suggestions from August’s presentation included widening the sidewalks to allow for more outdoor seating, improving landscaping to provide more shade and having space for more signage.

To help bring more activity to the riverfront area, the consultants suggested a pedestrian walkway they called a “river road” between the former Jasper Cabinets building and the railroad tracks; it would be located on land that would be Second Street if that street were extended between Jackson and Main streets.

“The proposal is to transform this undesignated area into a true address for activities to occur in that particular area,” Alberts said.

To make the northern bank of the riverfront more active, steps leading to the river could be installed and stem to a pedestrian walkway that would be an extension of Mill Street to the north.

Also in that area the city could build a marketplace facility. It would be “a gathering place, not just on Saturdays in the summer, but throughout the year,” Alberts said.

Older buildings in the area also could be used. Alberts said that the former Jasper Cabinets building could be used as a small downtown hotel, the former Hoosier Desk building could be converted to housing and the former Veneer building on Sixth Street could become housing with some commercial use, “like a restaurant overlooking the river.”

“We believe there is a strong potential market interest in each of those properties,” Alberts said, “not in the same way but in ways that, in time, will complement each other.”

Connecting the riverfront to the Square is important, Alberts said. While the two are only a few blocks from each other, “it feels like a much longer distance,” he said.

The consultants suggested making visual improvements along Main Street, adding another pedestrian bridge to connect the end of Main to the south side of the river and having a significant piece of artwork on that south side.

The consultants also suggest integrating public artwork that would emphasize the city’s focus on the arts and its history in the wood industry. “Neither of those characteristics (is) visible in terms of the downtown and the riverfront,” Alberts said.

Once the details are completed, the consultants’ suggestions will be posted on the city’s website. This will be done prior to a public hearing that will be held in December by the city plan commission, which is the body charged with adopting any recommendations for the city’s comprehensive plan. The information must be on the website,, at least 10 days prior to the meeting but likely will be posted much earlier than that, City Attorney Renee Kabrick said this morning.

If the commission decides to adopt the recommendations, they will come back to the common council for approval.

Major improvements like these must be included in the comprehensive plan before the city can start implementing them, Kabrick said.

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