Hope’s public planning sessions good for town square projects

Hope officials are planning revitalization projects around the town’s square in order to create a sustainable downtown, and bolster the community as a destination point.

The town is in position to receive up to $500,000 in grant money from the Indiana Office of Rural and Community Affairs for downtown projects because it was selected for the Indiana Main Street program.

That amount would be a big help in turning some of the ideas for improvement into reality.

Equally helpful is the public’s input that is being sought, as town officials work to determine priorities.

An initial public input session was March 30, and a followup is planned for April 24. These sessions are being coordinated by Main Street of Hope, a new group that has taken ownership of the project. Ideas presented during the first public meeting by Indianapolis-based Storrow | Kinsella Associates, hired by the town using money from an earlier grant, range from functionality to aesthetics, both of which are important.

The ideas have largely focused on State Road 9 on the west side of the square, the town park and businesses located around the square.

The presentation by Storrow | Kinsella suggested that some of the design elements currently on the Hope Town Square are at odds with each other, such as the Victorian clock installed in January 2015 and the horse-trough flower planters, which represent an early farm theme. The addition of lighting, awnings and other fixtures were also discussed — some of which could be installed privately by businesses on the square.

Functionality is another factor. With so many public events, including large festivals such as Hope Heritage Days, it makes sense to install restrooms in the shelter house on the square, which would mean extending sewer lines — one of the costlier ideas.

Hope is wise in taking an a la carte approach in the planning process — to prioritize pieces of a broad strategy that could be implemented depending on how much grant money becomes available. This plan is on a fast track, with a decision possible by the Hope Town Council in May.

With a broad section of the town — residents, business owners and public servants — involved, building a consensus and moving forward for the betterment of all will make a lasting impact on Bartholomew County’s second-largest community.