Destination: Downtown Elkhart

A Community is as vibrant as its downtown

Elkhart's Downtown Main Street has made major improvements in recent years, including sustaining more active restaurants, retail, art galleries, and market rate housing available above downtown merchants.  For such downtown development to be deemed successful, the market must respond by actively redeveloping the neighborhoods surrounding a downtown Main Street. 

In recent years, the market has not yet wildly responded. Elkhart's Main Street still has several residential and commercial units available and in need of renovation. This means we need to do more. Simultaneously, we must address the dramatically changing housing trends, while we create a desirable place where people of all ages want to live and play.

 

A Vision For Elkhart: a destination for urban living

Private and public leaders have stepped up and they have already started to commit the millions of dollars required to proactively shift the trend so that people won't only be working in Elkhart -- they will also start living and playing in Elkhart. 

This project is called The River District. This district is expected to surge an urban vision with economic energy into expanding Elkhart's downtown to match the trends of other thriving urban environments -- and to make Main Street and its surrounding neighborhoods vibrant once again. 

 

The River District Project

Since April 2017, The River District Implementation Team (RDIT) has been commissioned by the City of Elkhart to design and execute the River District project.

Currently known as a less desirable downtown area, The River District area consists of a 105-acre peninsula (see below) bounded by the St. Joseph River, Elkhart River, Main Street and Prairie/Johnson Street.

The River District Implementation Team is comprised of qualified professionals from both the public and private sectors.

Two anchor projects have already been started in this area and have been the catalyst for imagining a future of growth for Elkhart. These projects include the "Elkhart Health Fitness Aquatics and Community Center" and the Stonewater at the Riverwalk residential development by Flaherty and Collins.

     
     
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    Watch this video to capture the vision for change in Elkhart's River District.


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    Our Mission

    Our mission is to define the development plan and process for holding constituents accountable for creating a master design, development book, and assembling properties and developers to create the River District.
     

    River District Implementation Team Objectives

    1. Create a walkable, urban community as an expansion of downtown Elkhart.

    2. Per a residential market analysis, develop 1000+ housing units in the River District and surrounding area.

    3. Include a supermarket and mixed-use solutions supporting residential living.

    4. Upgrade parks, the Riverwalk, and recreational amenities. 

    5. Assure that adequate parking will support all events and activities.


    RDIT Timeline

     
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    River District Scope of Work

    Development Zones

    The River District will be split into "development zones" inspiring local investors and developers to lead constructing new mixed-use projects.

    Phases of Work

    Projects will be organized in three phases ranging from one to ten years of development. Phase One is already underway.

    Infrastructure Investments

    The City of Elkhart has proactively started investing in infrastructure that will build streets, utilities, parks and recreation that will support the development projects.

      

    Health, Fitness and Aquatics

    The "Elkhart Health Fitness Aquatics and Community Center" construction is underway. Sitting in the northwest corner of the district where the two rivers meet, this  impressive $69.5MM project will open in March 2019. Included will be a regional competition aquatics center, a Beacon Health and Fitness Center, and a community gathering place.

      

    Walkable Residential Living

    RDIT hired Zimmerman/Volk and Associates - residential market analysts, who determined that based on Elkhart's migration patterns, there is justification to develop an additional 1,000 rented units in downtown Elkhart. 28,000 people choose to work yet not live in Elkhart each day. Qualitative data also supports that Elkhart needs desirable amenities and rented housing to meet our potential. The first project has been started by Flaherty and Collins of Indianapolis with 206 units named Stonewater at The Riverwalk.  

       

    Parks and Riverwalk Enhancements

    Lundquist Park enhancements are being planned to accommodate residents and visitors of The Riverwalk. The Riverwalk will be expanded to complete a full 1.5 mile loop around The River District. 

    In addition, a Town Green will be a central outdoor gathering place on the east end of Jackson Boulevard, next to a future supermarket and residential site.


    Streetscape Upgrades:
    Jackson Blvd

    Starting April 2018, the Jackson Boulevard streetscape will be improved with preparation for wide sidewalks, bike lanes, turn lanes, attractive medians, and buried utilities. This will set the stage for a safe, walkable, urban environment for future residents.

    2018-2019 additional streetscape upgrades will include Elkhart Avenue, Junior Achievement Drive and likely Lexington as important secondary thoroughfares in the district.  

    Click here to view entire streetscape design.

       

    Water Recreation

    The US Army Corp. of Engineers requires the low flow dam be removed behind INOVA Federal Credit Union. This will consequently lower the flood plain and offer the opportunity to create water park amenities. This will includes a planned river launch site at the end of Junior Achievement Drive for water recreation such as kayaks. 

      

    Traffic Management

    Creating a welcoming and safe walkable environment begins with well-planned traffic control. Traffic studies support that Jackson Boulevard traffic mostly splits to north and south bound routes at Johnson/Prairie -- leaving only 9,000 cars per day traveling on Jackson between Main Street and Johnson/Prairie Street. Near-term intersection improvements at Jackson/Johnson will help better transition traffic to their north/south destinations: primarily leading traffic to Middlebury and Cassopolis. 


      Existing downtown parking

    Parking

    With increased activity in the River District, including the aquatics center (which can hold up to 16 weekend events per year, each with 500 visiting vehicles) -- parking is an important topic. RDIT wants to assure the residents, retailers, businesses, and visitors have experiences that meet their expectations. Possible solutions being explored include considerable increased street parking, expanded parking lots, bus routes between public parking areas, and smart parking directional technologies for events.

        

    Utilities

    Jackson Boulevard will be a walkable featured street with bike lanes and attractive medians connecting Main and Johnson/Prairie Streets. This urban, mixed-use setting is enhanced by burying utilities to remove power lines along Jackson. Utilities on secondary streets will remain above ground.

          

    District Maintenance and Facade Incentives

    The RDIT budget includes funds to develop a proposed neighborhood association that will be charged with grounds maintenance throughout the district. Also, as afforded, funds are intended to be available to assist existing businesses with achieving compliance to the district zoning and overlay requirements. 

     

    Since April 2017, the following diverse team of professionals have been working on the development and implementation of the River District master plan. Service providers were engaged in August 2017 to begin the formal planning efforts.

     
     

    Private Sector

    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
     

     

    PUBLIC SECTOR

    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 Itwin
    City of Elkhart, Utility Engineer

    Mike Machlan
    City of Elkhart, City Engineer

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

    Professional Services

    Shelley Moore, Project Lead
    President, ISC Community Development

    Scott Ford, Development Senior Advisor
    Executive VP, Bradley & Co,

    Ken Jones, Engineering Advisor
    President, Jones Petrie Rafinski

    Jeff Speck, Urban Planner
    Speck & Associates

    David Dixon, Urban Advisor
    President, Stantec

    Laurie Volk, Residential Market Analyst
    Partner,  Zimmerman Volk