Picture one-way roads and high-end stores in Old Town Greenwood.
Imagine broad sidewalks, smoothly flowing traffic and a roundabout on Madison Avenue.
Envision new restaurants, offices and condos in historic-looking buildings on Market Plaza. See people strolling past a fountain, colorful landscaping and decorative streetlights as they go to shop at boutiques or dine on rooftops.
That’s the vision that Old Town resident and economic development commission board member Chuck Landon unveiled Thursday. Landon called for transforming the Old Town area through the redevelopment of part of Market Plaza, the rerouting of traffic to go one-way and the creation of a new tax-increment financing district that would set aside tax dollars to help pay for various projects.
A few buildings on Market Plaza, such as an abandoned used car dealership, could be torn down to make way for new development near the intersection of Market Plaza and Lincoln Street. The Suds, Jockamo’s Upper Crust Pizza and other businesses on Market Plaza would remain.
The plan also would preserve 150-year-old buildings at Main Street and Madison Avenue that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and that residents fought to save.
Greenwood would widen the sidewalks in front of those businesses but would do so by narrowing Main Street to two lanes and making traffic one-way westbound past the fire station. Drivers headed east would take a short loop down Market Plaza, onto Machledt Drive, along Meridian Street and back onto Main Street.
The plan is preliminary and includes no cost projections, engineering studies or estimates of how many condos or square feet of retail space would be added. Greenwood also would have to work with at least one private developer to build new mixed-use buildings, but none have signed onto the project yet.
Both city officials and residents spoke in support of Landon’s ideas at a meeting attended by more than 30 people Thursday.
City director of operations Terry McLaughlin said the administration was excited about Landon’s proposals, which are based on the city’s 2007 comprehensive plan. Planning director Ed Ferguson said he looked forward to working on ideas the city first came up with more than five years ago. A representative of the Restore Old Town Greenwood community group said they’d be willing to help with the smaller parts.
Three residents also said they were impressed with the plans, hoped Old Town revitalization would take precedence over a new pool and would like to see a splash pad added where the pool was downtown. Resident Travis Goff said he hoped the planning process would involve cooperation with residents instead of just listening so resentments don’t develop, harden and linger the way they have with issues such as the pool.
Landon said the Old Town revitalization planning process would involve frequent communication, such as with affected property owners.
He next hopes that the Greenwood City Council will vote to endorse the plan for Old Town revitalization and agree that it should be a priority for city government.
“There’s been talk about painting buildings, about landscaping and flowers, about new signs,” he said. “But we’ve got to think big. We’ve got to think outside the box.”
Greenwood also is considering several other projects, including a relocation of city offices and a $10 million aquatic center at Freedom Park that would be paid for with property tax dollars from a tax-increment financing, or TIF, district.
Landon is proposing paying for his proposed improvements with money from a new TIF district that would cover much of the downtown area.
The district would collect property taxes from new development and increased property values in the Old Town and channel that money into road and other infrastructure projects in the Old Town area. The money wouldn’t go to schools, libraries and other local governments.
Landon isn’t the first to propose an Old Town TIF district. Late city council member John Gibson had advocated for a new downtown TIF as a way to pay for upgrades to the city’s central business district.
City officials have discussed ideas for revitalizing the Old Town area for years. Landon had served on a comprehensive plan committee that studied what to do about the Old Town and recommended creating one-way streets to lessen congestion and bring more customers in.
“If we do nothing, shame on us,” he said.
Then-Mayor Charles Henderson came up with a different plan that involved razing historic buildings on Main Street. He abandoned those plans after losing the Republican primary last year to Mark Myers, who went on to win the general election.
Landon has since been working on a new plan because he’s been concerned with vacant buildings downtown, such as Main Street storefronts and a former Mexican restaurant on Madison Avenue that’s remained empty for a few years.
His proposals would bring new businesses, such as upscale retailers similar to those at the Fashion Mall on the northside and gourmet restaurants similar to Richard’s Kitchen in Franklin, he said.
Janine Tomlin, a former owner of the Machledt mansion on Madison Avenue, said the idea had merit.
“The people who planned the Fashion Mall were ridiculed, and all forward thinkers are treated that way at the start,” she said. “But I remember when I had the real estate company that we could shop downtown or go to lunch just north of where the banquet facility is now.”
Tomlin said she especially favored the idea of one-way traffic because she thought it would be much easier during her morning commute to get to Interstate 65 and Indianapolis. Redirecting traffic could help break the bottleneck that occurs at the Main Street and Madison Avenue intersection.
Landon said the city would have to do something about traffic before any downtown revitalization could take place.
“Our problem is that we’ve got small streets and crowded traffic,” he said. “We’ve got congested traffic and and tight turns. The heart of this issue is that stumbling block.”