HOPE — The Hope Town Council has unanimously voted to allow Main Street of Hope to send its downtown revitalization plan to Indiana Main Street for consideration. It did so after receiving assurances that the council was neither endorsing any proposal nor making financial commitments with its action.

Main Street of Hope is seeking a $400,000 state grant that all Main Street communities are eligible to apply for, said Susan Thayer Fye, the group’s executive director.

When and if the Hope Town Square improvement plan is approved by the Indiana Main Street, it will be brought back to the town council for approval, Hope financial consultant Trena Carter said.

Indiana Main Street is part of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. Funds for the Hope plan’s development came from a $40,000 grant awarded last year through the federal Small Cities and Towns Community Development Block Grant program.

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If official town council approval is obtained for the proposals produced by Storrow Kinsella Associates and Columbus architect Louis Joyner, only then will Main Street of Hope board members start to consider specific ideas and attempt to seek support and funding for each project, Carter said.

“Main Street is a tool for economic development, not beautification,” Thayer Fye told the council last week.

Investors and government leaders are looking at Hope as a place to open new companies and create new jobs, she said.

When the $12 million, seven-mile-long renovation of State Road 252 just north of Hope is completed, the highway will be able to provide a safer direct route between I-65 and State Road 9, officials have said.

While the grant is being considered, the group is moving ahead with a few inexpensive projects that include organizing a downtown walking tour and downtown historic plaques, Thayer Fye said.

Such steps would help the town maintain funding from the Columbus Area Visitors Center, which recently reestablished a visitor information center in the town, now at the Yellow Trail Museum, she said.

Some of the most expensive proposals, which include a park terrace and additional walking paths as well as extensive shelter house and bandstand renovations, will have to be considered over time by the entire community, Thayer Fye said.

But she cited other proposals that appear to have support from the town of 2,100 residents:

Replacing yellow and brown benches with more historic public seating.

Improving street lighting for public safety.

Replacing traditional lights in the town square with more energy-efficient LED lights and adding more of them.

Installing bump-outs with curves in areas such as the intersection of Main and Jackson streets.

Council president Clyde Compton said his priority for the downtown area is to get funding to repave Washington Street, which he says “sticks out like a sore thumb” after new asphalt was recently laid on nearby Harrison and Jackson streets.

While such funding is possible, both Thayer Fye and Carter urged the council to first ensure that water and sewer lines under Washington are in good shape.

The cost of planting and maintaining new trees in the town square has been a concern that councilman Ohmer Miller has expressed since March. But if a local tree committee were formed, it could qualify the town for additional funds that could include upkeep, Thayer Fye said.

Councilwoman Nellie Meek sought assurances that downtown business owners were on board with the plan, and Thayer Fye said most seem pretty happy with it.

During her presentation, Thayer Fye reminded council members that the program could provide attributes to Hope that cannot be found in nearby, bigger Columbus.

Most of the buildings surrounding the Hope Town Square are at least a half-century old, and Thayer Fye said there are hardly any businesses left that existed in 1967.

“What do you want those buildings to be 50 years from now?” Thayer Fye asked. “That’s what this study is all about.”

Main Street of Hope board of directors

Dr. Greg Sweet, president

Ashley Norman, vice president

Tabatha Tallent, secretary

Pete Law, treasurer

Michael Dean

Vicki Gardner

Barb Johnson

Ken Patton

Jean Marr Wilkins

Source: Town of Hope

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