Diane Raver The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune
---- — About 40 people attended a re-building Main Street planning session March 12 at the Sherman House.
“This is the first step in revitalizing the Main Street program in Batesville, which began about three years ago,” noted Mayor Rick Fledderman.
The organization’s members had a lot of momentum at the time, but since then, the effort has struggled to keep going, he said.
“Sarah Lamping was brought on to help with community development for the city, and she’s working closely with the chamber of commerce. We’re partnering together to help make the community better. I think we all have the same goals. We all want to make Batesville better.
“One of the main reasons to bring this to the community is to have an organization to focus on downtown. If we don’t have a vibrant downtown, I just don’t think it sends a great message for the rest of the community .... I know we have a lot of accomplish.
“The facade grants were a result of us being a Main Street community, and they made quite an impact on downtown .... (The group) was heavily involved in the whole downtown project of the two-way street and landscaping. They sponsored the tree lighting” in December to start the holiday season and “partnered with the chamber on Summerfest.
“I’ll support this (group) in any way possible, but I’d like to have another voice and other opinions coming in” about what needs to be done. “Sarah will lead the organizational things behind the scenes,” he revealed.
Lamping announced that Indiana Main Street groups are successful because of “passion, partnerships, plans and perseverance.”
The mayor pointed out, “We need people who are passionate and want to revitalize .... We have partnerships between the city and the chamber, and we also partner with the hospital, schools and the YMCA.
“We’re looking at the city’s comprehensive plan and want to update it and our strategic plan for downtown ..... (and) we just have to persevere and go for it and make things better.”
He revealed, “We’ve established an historic district in a large part of the downtown area .... (and) instituted a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district. The downtown is included in the TIF district, and funds can be reinvested” there.
Community members were invited to be part of four committees: organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring. Fledderman also invited attendees to share their ideas.
Jaime Mustaine, Tri-State Artisans owner, emphasized, “We talk about tourism, but how do we do that when by noon on Saturday every business but the restaurants are closed? How do we bring in tourism when the community isn’t providing for it?
“After 5 or 6 p.m., there’s nothing going on. We need to be here when people can shop, and they can’t shop when they’re working.”
Jim Fritsch observed, “We could have all kinds of directional signs for downtown, but what do you do once you get here? You have to have more of those storefronts filled before you direct people down here .... as opposed to directing them down here to the asphalt jungle.”
Pepe Paras stressed, “We have a lot of history in regard to what were landmarks at one time. That could be enhanced .... I would like to see money directed to landmarks rather than green space.”
Lamping noted, “We need to look around and see what we already have .... (and) capitalize on what makes us different. If we find out what those things are, we can invest our energy and assets in that.”
Anne Raver recalled, “We put a lot of money into the baseball complex. I think there’s a golden opportunity for us to capitalize on that.” With visitors coming for tournaments, “they may shop, eat and sleep here.”
Andrea Wade, the city administrative assistant, commented, “Try to plan your promotions around the festivals and sporting events ... when you know there will be a large selection of people coming into town.”
Doug Bessler, Sherman House owner, announced, “We’ve got to continue to promote Batesville for what it is. Look at the assets we have – the school system, churches, hospital, swimming pool .... We can’t lose sight of what we’ve got.”
The mayor agreed, “We’ve got a great quality of life here.”
Lamping added, “We need to collectively pull together as a community through a variety of different efforts.”
The next meeting will be Wednesday, April 9, at 5:30 p.m. at the Sherman House.
Diane Raver can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.