Creating a destination for living and playing - not a speed zone
Since spring 2017, public meetings have shared the vision for the River District as a walkable, urban community that is designed and vetted by experts responsible for the success of building successful communities around the country.
Through the planning process we found ourselves needing to be much more proactive in shifting from suburban thinking -- with strip malls and parking lots -- to the principles required to create a walkable, urban environment that people of all ages are relocating to. These urban principles have worked in cities for decades, including the historical Elkhart and the current Main Street. During the planning process we tested these principles by visiting other cities and speaking with their staff about what they learned -- while walking their streets and measuring their lanes. We hired experts who have completed successful projects in other communities. We also worked closely with local staff, understanding what they have learned from past projects and our local conditions.
With all the research and planning completed, the current changes to Jackson Boulevard were well-vetted, as they are integral to developing the core infrastructure required to achieve success as a signature community that is a safe destination to live, play and visit. Our goal is to make Elkhart a special place to live -- much more than merely a generic place to pass through.
Following are the planning considerations that were completed with experts during the planning of Jackson Boulevard to date. Further plans and adjustments will be made as development and construction continues in the area through 2019.
FACTS ABOUT JACKSON BLVD. DEVELOPMENT
- Deliveries and emergency access have been designed and reviewed with all property owners and the fire department. The design was reviewed with all property owners for their truck access. Truck deliveries were already being accessed from the rear of buildings and this will continue.
The fire department has reviewed the plan and the following design modifications were confirmed to meet their requests:
- Rear 20-foot alleys will exists for all buildings, not only for their daily deliveries, also for emergency vehicle access. Fires and emergency approaches in urban environments are accessed from the rear of buildings.
- The median on Jackson at Nibco Parkway will be shortened 30 feet so that fire trucks can clear a left-hand turn if needed.
- Lane widths are standard. The original lane-width design on Jackson was widened from the standard 10-foot lanes to 10.5-foot lanes to accommodate any concerns for travel and emergency access. Standard 8-foot parallel parking lanes are designated by concrete pads. Lane widths less than 11 feet exist throughout the city where speeds must be reduce for residential living. Narrow lanes are specifically designed to reduce speeds from state route speeds of 40 mph to 20 mph to accommodate the urban, walkable community that we are building.
- Snow removal plans have been developed. No different than any other urban area such as Main Street, snow removal requires a plan for potentially the worst conditions. Edges with radius curbs for plows have been installed. Excess snow will be removed and disposed in the river as needed. This first winter, overnight parking will not be permitted on Jackson, so that plows can pass, giving the street department time to consider the long-term options.
- Downtown streets are not truck routes. While all downtown urban areas accommodate trucks for delivery to the many businesses that exist there, they are not truck routes. For instance, for years the truck route on SR 120/Jackson, from CR17, ends at Middleton Road and diverts truck traffic to Middlebury Road.
The intention of the downtown traffic plan is to divert through-traffic to primary roads such as Johnson/Prairie, Franklin, Elkhart Avenue, Beardsley, Middlebury, Bristol, County Road 6, and County Road 17. Our city is a network of roads with much easier and faster routes for through-traffic not intending a downtown destination. Main Street and Jackson Street are designed for urban living, walkability and commerce. Speeds must be slower and safer for pedestrians.
- Residential living is the focus. Downtown, including the River District is targeting to build 1,000 urban housing units to accommodate our housing shortage to attract workforce and lifestyle amenities for new residents and industry. Approximately 500 of these units will start construction by end of 2019. While it may be difficult to imagine now, the change is real. The infrastructure changes that are underway are designed to support a thriving community and compete to attract people that we are otherwise losing. Designs for more diversified housing solutions in industrial areas are also underway.
About the River District Plan and Team
The River District Implementation Team is a private-public partnership involving private leaders and city leaders and staff who have united as a team and are working together to design the solutions presented to the public. These solutions involved and continue to engage significant investment of time, scrutiny, and commitment for us to work together in unprecedented ways.