Aiming to impress judges who will decide if Batesville gets a grant worth up to $4 million as one of two Hoosier cities chosen for the Indiana Stellar Community Pilot Program, leaders brainstormed how to leave an awesome visual impression and came up with a stellar idea. Take an aerial photo of Batesville boosters forming a star that will serve as the cover image for the grant application. “The judges want to see community support. This is something we can all do to help!” noted organizer Rhonda Savage in an e-mail that swirled through the city late last week. An estimated 600 showed up downtown Jan. 16 to accomplish that task, according to organizer Kim Linkel. That was four days after over 100 arrived at the Memorial Building to learn more about proposals the city will submit to hopefully attain the massive influx of dollars. Mayor Rick Fledderman asked for volunteers and ideas to impress the selection committee during a Feb. 3 site visit. He can be reached at 933-6100. “We've asked a lot of you to write letters” of support. Letters from businesses and community groups must be submitted by Jan. 17 so they can be added to the application, due Jan. 21. Kevin Foster, Greensburg, who is the Schneider Engineering, Indianapolis, landscape architecture and planning group head, asked members of three focus groups a series of questions Jan. 6. One of them: If you could see something take place downtown, what would it be? Answers ranged from continuing the farmers’ market to concerts, from family or youth nights to local arts and crafts shows with food served. The mayor asked the consultants to focus on the six blocks bordered by Boehringer, Catherine, Depot and Walnut streets. After listening to a day’s worth of answers, Foster arrived at a goal: to “respect the small town charm of downtown Batesville while incorporating modern technology and sustainable practices into the historic setting to produce a walkable and vibrant ... community that attracts regional patrons.” To make the city much more appealing to residents and visitors alike, major streets would boast wide pedestrian walkways, specialty pavement and crosswalks, large planters, extensive landscaping, decorative lighting and furniture. Lesser streets would have some of those elements for a unified look. Foster then turned the crowd’s attention to Batesville Shopping Village and the block south of that. “What's down there now, the barren old parking lot, ... could be so much better.” He asked for feedback on three options to transform the area. All show a two-way East Pearl Street between Main Street and Park Avenue. Option 1 – A gathering space within a large median between eastbound and westbound Pearl would be constructed. A public restroom building that doubles as a historic train depot with display area and also could serve as a trailhead would be built at Pearl and Main streets. The 25-by-45-foot building would replicate the depot that used to sit by railroad tracks near Liberty Park, the mayor said. A focal point, perhaps a vertical element, would be placed at Sycamore and Pearl. Option 2A – The community greenspace would be south of East Pearl Street with a vertical element on Main Street. The depot would be just east of Sycamore. Option 2B – A half block of Sycamore would be closed, allowing the greenspace to flow from Main to Sycamore south of East Pearl. The depot would be in the southeast corner of the plaza. Reaction was varied. David Raver said citizens previously discussed adding retail shops and restaurants on the north side of George Street. A gathering plaza “negates a building expansion in that block.” Foster contended that downtown must have a draw and believed there still would be room to add a building or increase parking. Todd Cook said Option 2B “looks killer to me.” After the meeting, he added, “It makes all kinds of sense.” Jim Fritsch favored 2B as well, but would love to see a canopied pavilion not fully enclosed that could be used for summer concerts and the farmers' market and parking when not in use. Melinda Taylor pointed out, “We have a beautiful (Liberty) Park in Batesville. I'm not sure why we're wanting to create another greenspace to hold events.” Erik Tuveson asked, “From your experience, given the types of improvements you're discussing, have you then seen businesses roll into that environment, or do the businesses have to come first?” Foster admitted, “That's really kind of a tough question .... we very rarely see businesses come without some type of improvement. Without doing something like that, I don't see (downtown) changing.” Mark Wilder urged grant writers to focus on higher education, perhaps bringing Ivy Tech or other options into the city center and the mayor agreed. Claire Whalen suggested, “Have you thought about bringing people downtown without their cars? That would be innovative.” Afterwards, engaged attendees, including Mayor’s Youth Council members, stuck around to view drawings of the options. (Interested residents can view those display boards in the Memorial Building lobby.) There were animated conversations. “What we really need ...” was drifting around the council chambers. Comment cards were completed. Some looked at inspirational photos and drawings Foster displayed on a poster. They showed a sidewalk cafe, attractive trees, orderly plantings and – most importantly – scores of people out and about.

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