In a lot of ways, downtown Bargersville looks as it has for decades.
The Umbarger Show Feeds’ silos dominate the center of the town, sidled up to the railroad tracks that pass directly through it. Brick storefronts house attorneys, real estate agents, insurance agents and other local businesses.
But in the growing community, modern development is popping up. Taxman Brewing Co. has established a craft brewery and eatery in a former tool shop. New restaurants continue to build up on the east side of town.
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With Bargersville poised to grow and change in the coming decades, a group of residents is working to ensure the town flourishes while retaining the country atmosphere and friendly qualities that have made it special.
Bargersville Main Street has been formed to help promote the town and work to realize its potential.
“We just love this little community. We’re close to whatever we need, but we’re still rural. It’s a good community to raise a family and work and play,” said Jeff Beck, vice chairman of the group.
From 2010 to 2013, Bargersville’s population grew by 9.5 percent, according to the U.S. Census. Much of the growth came from annexing populated but unincorporated areas of White River Township into the town.
The current 6,409 residents still live in a small community. But changes loom in the future.
The proposed extension of Interstate 69, which could pass by fewer than 10 miles to the west of Bargersville, would bring with it development potential, such as industry and more housing.
The timing is ideal for growth, said Bill Inabnitt, chairman of Bargersville Main Street.
“When I was in high school, people drove their tractors to school for Senior Day. This was a farm community,” he said. “It’s not just a farm community anymore. We have multimillion-dollar homes built everywhere throughout White River Township. The expansion and building slowed down in the housing crunch, but it did not stop.”
At the same time, the Bargersville area still has seven Hoosier Homestead farms that have been in the same family for at least 100 years.
“It’s still a rural community, where neighbors will help your neighbor,” Beck said.
Bargersville Main Street came together last year. The town was hoping to apply for a state grant to hire an architect as part of a downtown revitalization project.
One of the requirements for the grant was the formation of a public organization not associated with the town government to show that residents were in support of the project and were invested in the improvements. Bargersville Main Street became that organization.
“We’re all parents who grew up in this area. It means a lot to us,” said Brenda Burkhart, treasurer of the group.
Bargersville received the $40,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to pay for the downtown revitalization study, the results of which will become available this summer.
With that information, the town can start making plans to act on the report’s recommendations, Inabnitt said.
Town supporters hope to be able to make the downtown more attractive both to businesses and visitors and to study the developing area at State Road 135 and County Road 144. Trails could link the areas, allowing people to walk or bike more easily around the town.
“We wanted to know how to spruce up this area downtown, to help with businesses that are here and bring new businesses in, to put a spit-shine on the town so we could bring new life to it,” Inabnitt said.
Even though the town has received the grant, work remains for Bargersville Main Street.
The aim of the group is to create a positive atmosphere surrounding the town. The members hope to do that by stimulating economic growth, providing community activities such as concerts and festivals and preserving the town’s history.
Since it started, Bargersville Main Street has served as a gathering place for events and activities going on around Bargersville. Its website and Facebook page list upcoming events sponsored by the town and by area businesses.
The group has worked hand-in-hand with the town’s event coordinator to ensure that more people, both locally and throughout central Indiana, know what’s happening in the community.
“My presentation to the group was: ‘Let’s get the website set up. Let’s get a community calendar. Let’s get some businesses involved.’ If we get the cyber traffic, that’ll bring the foot traffic,” Inabnitt said. “The foot traffic will bring the businesses. And it’s happening.”
The group has worked closely with town event organizer Lynne Hess, who has scheduled 14 events throughout the year already. The pet-themed Waggin’ on Main Street helped raise more than $1,000 for the Johnson County Humane Society.
A concert series downtown will bring regional bands to perform Saturday nights, with food trucks and beer and wine for people who want to enjoy, Hess said.
A barbecue and blues fest will happen in July, and an expanded three-day harvest festival is planned for September.
With proper planning, Bargersville could add trails and bike lanes to become a cycling haven, where people could ride from Greenwood or Franklin through the county into the town, Beck said.
Organizers are discussing how to ensure that Bargersville Main Street carries on. Fundraisers and donations could support town promotion opportunities, and a fund has been set up through the Johnson County Community Foundation.
The organization will have tables set up at upcoming community events and will accept donations, Inabnitt said.
The group doesn’t want the town to become like Massachusetts Avenue or Broad Ripple in Indianapolis. But members acknowledge that Bargersville has the location, atmosphere and resources to be a destination for people.
To illustrate that vision, Inabnitt points to one of Bargersville’s downtown businesses, Pump House Antiques. The store carries vintage tools, furniture, decorations and other knickknacks from decades past. All of those things are old, and some would say are dilapidated and falling apart, he said.
“But other people see this, and they want to keep the history and authentic, antique nature, but revitalize it where it’s useful today,” he said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing.”
What: Bargersville Main Street, a volunteer community group aimed at promoting the town of Bargersville, creating a positive atmosphere by stimulating economic growth, fostering pride, providing community activities and preserving history.
How to get involved: Meetings are at 6 p.m. the second Monday of every month at Bargersville Town Hall, 24 N. Main St.
Upcoming downtown Bargersville events
June 13: Ice Cream Day and community yard sale
June 27: Summer Concert Series with the Eddie Van Zant Band, 6 to 10 p.m.
July 17: Car show and swap meet, 5 to 10 p.m.; music by the Remnants starts at 6.
July 18: BBQ on Main St, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; music by the Michigan Street Blues Band starts at 6.
Aug. 22: Art show and music by Jazz Elements Band, 3 to 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 to 20: Harvest Moon Festival