All streets now open in downtown Elkhart’s River District expansion

ELKHART (December 7, 2018) – Mayor Tim Neese announced today that all streets are now open to vehicle traffic in Elkhart’s River District. This includes arterial streets such as Jackson Boulevard and Elkhart Avenue, as well as secondary streets.

With road construction complete for 2018, crews are now focused on the installation of additional lighting along Jackson Boulevard. Crews will also be working on sidewalks, brick pavers, and adding other landscaping elements to the trees that were planted earlier this year. Other winter work will include utility connections to the Elkhart Health and Aquatics center and installation of underground facilities for Indiana Michigan Power and Frontier Communications. 

As Street Department crews and residents adjust to the reconfiguration of Jackson Boulevard, on-street parking is currently limited to the hours of 6:00 a.m. to midnight. 

The transformation of the Elkhart River District will continue in 2019. Residents should anticipate reconstruction of the remaining section of Jackson Boulevard, from Junior Achievement Drive to Prairie/Johnson Street starting in March. Streetscape projects along Junior Achievement Drive and Lexington Avenue will also be completed in 2019.

Mayor Tim Neese’s vision of the River District Revitalization Project is to develop a vibrant urban space that complements existing Main Street assets and creates a destination where people want to live. The plan calls for the development of 1000+ housing units in downtown Elkhart and the surrounding area to meet current market demand. These additional units are supported by a housing market study completed by the renowned Zimmerman Volk and Associates. The streetscape project will enhance new, exciting investments and private development already taking place in the area, including the Elkhart Health and Aquatics center and Stonewater at the Riverwalk. 

For more information, visit www.elkhartriverdistrict.com.

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November 12 at Noon LEX 530 Ribbon Cutting

Join Carl and Emilie Tiedemann, the LEX 530 team and the Elkhart Chamber on November 12th at Noon for the LEX 530 Metropolitan Event Center  official ribbon cutting at 530 E. Lexington Avenue in downtown Elkhart. The bright, eclectic center has an urban vibe with eight large windows and 18-foot barreled ceilings. Located on the east side of the Elkhart River, the space will take advantage of the natural beauty of the newly revitalized River District.                        

The beautifully designed space will accommodate everything from intimate gatherings in a special private dining area to large soirées in the event center’s main room. Corporate events, weddings, not-for-profit galas or private family parties are all perfectly suited for LEX 530. Reservations are now being accepted.

For more information, visit www.lex530.com or call 574-296-1335 for a personal tour. For social media, visit @theLex530 on Twitter and Instagram in addition to Facebook atwww.facebook.com/theLex530.

ABOUT LEX 530 METROPOLITAN EVENT CENTER 
The LEX 530 Metropolitan Event Center is a modern, metropolitan event center on the east bank of the Elkhart River in the newly revitalized River District. The modern, urban event space can accommodate events from intimate dinners for 30 to special events for up to 250 guests. LEX 530 is owned by Elkhart natives Carl and Emilie Tiedemann. Carl Tiedemann is the founder of The Tiedemann Group of companies which has an array of real estate, construction and wine distribution companies including Tiedemann Wines and Glenwood Cellars Wines. For more information, please visit www.lex530.com

Elkhart’s River District Implementation Plan receives international merit award for planning

ELKHART - Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese announced today that the City’s River District Implementation Plan has received a Merit Award for Planning by the International Downtown Association (IDA). The award recognizes planning efforts that have established a strategic position for downtown, and that include elements of the plan that have already been approved, ratified, and implemented. 

“With the streetscape work underway and continued construction on anchor redevelopment projects, we are able to see the short-term progress towards a more walkable, residential downtown destination; however, the true benefits of this transformation will be felt for decades to come,” Neese said. “At this early stage in development, it is extremely rewarding to see our plan garnering international recognition. I want to thank the River District Implementation Team (RDIT) for helping to keep Elkhart competitive and also thank the City Council and the public for their support of these efforts.”

Elkhart was one of only six communities in the U.S. to receive this award, joining the ranks of much larger cities including Cedar Rapids, Dallas, and Des Moines. Dave Weaver, RDIT Chair, attended the IDA award presentation in San Antonio, Texas. 

“The RDIT members, including our Elkhart business leaders and city staff, have been diligently working together and meeting every two weeks since spring 2017 about every detail of this project. Trees, lights, street designs, traffic flow, and mixed-use redevelopment projects aimed at generating revenue for the city’s long-term sustainability are all regular topics of discussion,” Weaver said. “Everyone truly cares about this project being a success for Elkhart and it matters that we involve the necessary experts to get this right. We thank everyone involved for their hard work and commitment. This award is just one symbol of well-deserved recognition for what public-private partnerships can achieve in creating the change needed to fulfill a vision for our community’s future growth.”

The IDA is a world leader and champion for vital and livable urban centers. Their annual Downtown Achievement Awards recognize outstanding improvements to downtown by the work of dedicated individuals around the globe. 

To learn more about the 2018 Downtown Achievement Award and view Elkhart’s winning submission, visit www.ida-downtown.org/eweb/. To learn more about the River District project, visit www.elkhartriverdistrict.com

The River District Implementation Team is comprised of the following:

David Weaver, Chair
President, Kem Krest Corporation

Bob Deputy
Bill Deputy Foundation

Pete McCown 
President, Community Foundation of Elkhart County

 Brian Smith
CEO, Heritage Financial Group

Crystal Welsh, City Coordination
City of Elkhart, Director of Development Services

Jamie Arce
City of Elkhart, Deputy Controller

David Henke
Common Council Member, Finance Committee Chair

Tory Irwin
City of Elkhart Utility Engineer

Mike Machlan
City of Elkhart, City Engineer

Jeff Schaffer
City of Elkhart, Right-of-Way Engineer



Professional services have also been provided by: 

Shelley Moore, Project Lead
President, ISC Community Development

Scott Ford, Associate Vice President for Economic Development
University of Notre Dame

Eric Shields, Economic Development Advisor
Cardinal Strategies

Ken Jones and Chris Chockley, Engineering Advisors
Jones Petrie Rafinski 

Andy Myers, Directing Broker
Myers Trust Real Estate

Jeff Speck, Urban Planner
Speck & Associates

David Dixon, Urban Advisor
President, Stantec

Laurie Volk, Residential Market Analyst
Partner,  Zimmerman Volk

City of Elkhart awarded $100,000 grant to remove low-head dam

Rendering of the Elkhart River after removal of the dam.

Rendering of the Elkhart River after removal of the dam.

ELKHART (October 30, 2018) – Mayor Tim Neese has announced that the City of Elkhart was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Lake and River Enhancement (LARE) Program. The grant will assist towards the City’s financial obligation for removal of the Elkhart River Dam.

Removal of the low-head dam will open the Elkhart River up to approximately 15 new species of fish and allow for additional recreational use of the rivers in downtown Elkhart. The junction of two rivers, the River District Revitalization Plan prioritized the removal of the dam in order to capitalize on this unique community asset.

Specifically, the plan includes river access at Junior Achievement Drive for kayaks and paddleboards, made possible by the dam’s removal. The overall project is aimed at developing a vibrant urban space that complements existing Main Street assets and creates a destination where people want to live.

“As we look at a number of quality of place amenities to attract additional residents and visitors to downtown Elkhart, the removal of the low-head dam presents an opportunity to capitalize on an asset many communities do not have,” Neese said. “In addition to these recreational benefits, the dam’s removal will also increase safety and improve the biological health of the river. As part of the River District Revitalization Plan, I believe this project will facilitate and enhance other development in the area. Combined, these projects comprise a significant investment in Elkhart’s future, and I want to commend the Public Works and Utilities Department for seeking opportunities, such as this, to lower the cost to local taxpayers.”

In 2011, as a then member of the Indiana House of Representatives, Mayor Neese authored legislation to allow LARE funds to be used for projects in rivers. Previously, LARE funds could only be used for lake projects, and Neese authored the change as a direct result of feedback received from constituents living along the St. Joseph River. The goal of the LARE program is to protect and enhance aquatic habitat for fish and wildlife, and to insure the continued viability of Indiana’s publicly accessible lakes and streams for multiple uses, including recreational opportunities.

The Elkhart project is one of two grants awarded by IDNR to address the removal of low-head dams. The $2 million total project cost will be shared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Elkhart. With the grant from the LARE Program, the City’s share will be $430,000. This is significantly less expensive than the cost to repair current deficiencies in the dam.

The Elkhart River Dam is scheduled to be removed during the fall of 2019.

For the latest updates on the River District Revitalization Project, visit www.elkhartriverdistrict.com.

No better time than now

While the economy is strong, the City of Elkhart is working proactively to increase economic resiliency and develop a clear growth plan.

ElkhartBaseIndustries.png

ELKHART (October 5, 2018) – The City of Elkhart is known currently and historically as a manufacturing hub, contributing significantly to the regional and state economies. In fact, Elkhart’s base industries – which make up approximately 34 percent of the City’s employment – accounted for $14.6 billion in economic output and generated nearly $900 million in state sales and income tax revenue in 2017.

One week after a recent report by the New York Times deemed the state of the Elkhart economy as “decidedly ambiguous,” Elkhart-based Thor Industries became the largest RV manufacturer in the world. The annual Dealer Open House in late September reinforced the strength of the RV industry and a review of data collected by the City’s Building Department also shows that residential and commercial investments continue to rise. This Department, which plays a key role in the community’s economic development, is on track to complete over 4,000 inspections on new construction/renovation projects this year alone, a 58 percent increase over 2016. Through September of this year, the value of permits issued for these projects was just under $100 million.

This implies that confidence in the economy is still strong, but for many who have lived in Elkhart through various economic cycles, the sentiments expressed in the New York Times article were not surprising. Throughout the City’s history, the economy has been primarily driven by one industry at a time – pharmaceuticals, band instruments, manufactured homes, and now recreational vehicles. This over-reliance on a singular base industry has made Elkhart more vulnerable to fluctuations in the economy.

ElkhartEmploymentImpact.png

Recognizing this, the City of Elkhart began working earlier this year on an economic growth case study. It was important to dig deeper to understand and quantify what many local officials and residents know to be anecdotally true. While the economy is strong, the City is proactively working to increase economic resiliency and develop a clear growth plan.

As details continue to be finalized on the economic growth plan, certain overarching recommendations have already emerged. Economic growth objectives addressing industry diversification, talent development, quality of life issues, land use planning, and investment in aging real estate are needed to ensure Elkhart’s future resiliency.

Industry diversification

By examining the current base industries as well as workforce requirements, the City will identify two to three industries that they would specifically target for future growth. These industries should complement the existing base, have different market demand factors, and have the ability to be filled by the existing and new workforce talent. These industries could include distribution, logistics, supply chain management, information technology, data analytics, advanced manufacturing, engineered solutions, healthcare and technical training and education fields.

Addressing workforce and quality of life issues

Young people today are relocating to communities that offer lifestyle opportunities. Job opportunities are a secondary consideration. If the opposite were true, we would expect to see significant population growth as a response to the demand indicated by Elkhart’s low unemployment rate. However, that has not been the case.

Nationwide, millennials and baby boomers represent the largest populations, and both largely desire to live in walkable, urban communities with a variety of opportunity for recreation, hospitality, social connection, arts, culture, and other activities. By working now to create these conditions in our community, Elkhart will be at an advantage in terms of future population growth and the ability to support local industry.

In addition to creating a signature destination along Main Street and the River District in downtown Elkhart, we are also working to create more livable neighborhoods throughout the City. One way of doing this is through investments in our community gathering places, our parks. A citywide Housing Strategy is also being developed to address how we meet current and future housing demands, which will be essential to welcoming new residents to our reinvigorated community.

Investment in aging real estate and infrastructure

As the City identifies the industries we will target in the future, we must also prioritize local investments in a way that appeals to these target industries. Around the country, effective community growth is occurring in cities that have built a brand identity and have reinforced that identity through quality of place amenities and strategic infrastructure developments. These intentional strategic investments will be outlined in Elkhart’s first economic development plan and will aim to resolve impediments to targeted industries relocating to Elkhart. This will be done through creating shovel ready sites or repurposing aging real estate to meet current industrial standards.

These goals and recommendations offer a glimpse into the dedicated work being completed by the City of Elkhart’s economic development team over the past year. As we continue to invest in ourselves, we must have a plan that demonstrates to new industries and workforce that we are organized, and we are open for business. As that plan comes to fruition, the City is looking forward to sharing that with residents and business owners so that everyone will be a part of a reenergized Elkhart.

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