HOPE — The town of Hope is in position to receive up to $500,000 in grants for downtown improvements after having been selected for the Indiana Main Street program.

If such dollars materialize in grants from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, town leaders want to have input from local residents and business leaders on how it could be utilized.

More than 40 residents attended a brainstorming session Thursday on how to invest some of that money in the historic Hope Town Square and surrounding blocks, which included a presentation by the Indianapolis-based Storrow | Kinsella Associates, commissioned by the town to do a study of Hope’s downtown.

“New people have a fresh look at things, and provide possibilities we don’t see anymore,” said Jackie Robb Tallent, owner of Golden Nugget Pawn Shop, located on the town square. “They help us make sense of things.”

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The ideas could be categorized into three topics — State Road 9, also known as Main Street, the town park and ideas for businesses — which were included in a presentation facilitated by planner and landscape architect Meg Storrow.

State Road 9

Proposed changes for State Road 9 on the west side of the town square took up much of the discussion at the Hope Moravian Church.

The Indiana Department of Transportation will be conducting traffic counts, as well as tracing movements of vehicles, in the town square area for planning purposes.

Citing a need to get motorists on Hope’s Main Street to slow down and look at the downtown area, Storrow suggested a 4-way stop sign either at the Washington Street intersection to the south or at the Jackson Street intersection to the north.

However, Hope Utilities director David Clouse pointed out that a stop sign at the Washington Street intersection would make it nearly impossible for customers at Cornett’s Corner Cafe to get back onto the highway.

In addition, large trucks making loud noises while shifting gears would disrupt services at the nearby Norman Funeral Home, Clouse said.

As an alternative, he suggested a pedestrian crossing with flashing lights.

Any new stop sign on Main Street could result in more accidents caused by out-of-town truckers unfamiliar with the area, Hope resident Margie Bollinger said.

But there was consensus that a stop sign would work best at the intersection of Jackson Street, which many people agree is already dangerous for both motorists and pedestrians.

Curb extensions on the north side of Jackson Street in front of Shaton’s retail store was also recommended by Storrow to shift westbound motorists further south, giving them a better view of highway traffic.

Storrow also recommended adding strategically placed medians in the west side parking area next to the town square, adorned with decorative street lights or trees.

In response, Hope town council member Ohmer Miller warned that new trees would require extra taxpayer money for upkeep and maintenance.

If that concept is adopted, all parking in front of west-side businesses such as El Jefe’s restaurant and Norman Funeral Home would have to be eliminated for passing traffic, Hope farmer Gary Dodd said.

Town Park

For the shelter house, Storrow proposed adding another bay to provide restrooms and a catering kitchen. Another option is to install a glazed window wall on the west side of the shelter, which could potentially allow year-round use, Storrow said.

Although installing restrooms would require a sewer line connection, the upgrade could be done in conjunction with a much-needed roof replacement, Storrow said.

Proposed changes to the bandstand area include:

Tiered concrete or stone block terrace seating

Broad steps in front to expand performance space

Small, flowering trees behind the bandstand

A paved walkway originating off Harrison Street.

Concrete or stone seating could also be added to the playground area for parents watching their children, she said.

Finally, Storrow suggested a walkway starting from Washington Street near the playground that winds up to the bandstand and to shelter. Both landscaping and gardening could also serve as a unifying factor along the walkway, Storrow said.

That concept was warmly received by local chamber of commerce vice president Jake Miller, as well as others in attendance.

Businesses

When asked about style and decorations for the nearby businesses, a number of residents preferred an elegant, late 19th Century Victorian-style ambiance, rather than an early farm theme.

That style would fit better with the current mix of older buildings with modern architecture, Hope resident Barry Beeker said. In order to honor the town’s agricultural heritage, Beeker suggested using earth-tone paints on building facades.

Other concepts discussed include free-standing awnings, outdoor seating with umbrella tables, and solid hardwood planters and benches in front of the businesses.

In addition to continuing quilt art designs, Storrow suggested adding historic signage.

If business owners agree, architects and designers could be hired to develop a look that unifies but also highlights the individual character of each historic building, Storrow said.

Since Hope was founded almost 200 years ago by Moravian settlers, two decorative elements now being used by the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Moravian community were suggested.

They are candle lamps in all upper-floor windows surrounding the square, as well as star-shaped lights hung under outdoor fixtures.

What's next?

Main Street of Hope will host a second public workshop on April 24 that will incorporate ideas and concerns brought up Thursday regarding the Hope Town Square.

The time and location for the presentation of final recommendations will be announced soon, Main Street of Hope Executive Director Susan Thayer Fye said.

Those recommendations will then go to the Hope Town Council in May for its approval.  If the council gives its blessing, the final design will be sent to the Indiana Main Street program, Fye said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.