Kendallville OK’s plans for ‘The Alley’ next to Strand Theatre
By Steve Garbacz | KPC Media - The News Sun
It took a bit more discussion, but Kendallville has OK’d its first alleyscape project.
The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council will take on the task of cleaning up the alley between the Strand Theatre and Antiques and More and transforming it into a new gathering space.
MYAC hopes the simply branded “The Alley,” will grow a reputation so that everyone knows exactly where and what it is.
The more-than-$15,000 project will set up a new decorative arch, install flower planters, place picnic tables, add decorative overhead string lighting, add three murals to the antique store wall and stamp a maze design on part of the pavement.
Before getting to the approval from city officials at Tuesday’s Board of Works and Public Safety meeting, however, representatives from the Strand stepped forward to make known a few concerns about the project.
Diane Peachey, who spoke for Strand owner Bruce Babbitt, said the level of communication from the MYAC group hadn’t been great and that Babbitt had a few lingering worries about the project.
Chief among those concerns were the theater fire exits remaining clear, noise in the alley affecting movie showings at night and who would be responsible for clearing the alley if utility work needs to be done.
“We ask you, Bruce is saying if you would do it with conditions, for the sake of the kids, he will give his blessing,” Peachey said.
MYAC members stepped up to discuss changes they’ve made in an effort to meet Babbitt’s concerns — the alley design has been changed at least twice to address those issues, MYAC President Hailey Meyer said. The project won’t block the exit or touch the Strand building, and MYAC members will maintain the alley to keep it clean and safe.
On top of the MYAC group, other organization leaders and business owners stepped up to express their support for the alley project.
“I really support this project,” Kendallville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lynnette Leamon said. “There are so many communities around that have pocket parks, green spaces; we’ve seen some alley renovations like this.”
Alan Roush of Roush and Will Optometrists said after listening to Babbitt’s concerns, he felt they could be easily remedied. The alley project sounds like a good first step to inject new energy into the downtown.
“I just see a lot of potential for cleaning up what is a typical alley as working well for both sides,” Roush said. “If you can make an alley a little bit nicer, I don’t see how anybody loses from that.”
Doug Jansen of Jansen Family Dentistry and Angie Kidd of Noble New Way Movement also both spoke in favor of the effort to make the downtown more attractive to visitors.
Kevin Sabrosky, the owner of Antiques and More, told the board of works members that he, too, had a few concerns about the project but that the MYAC members were responsive to his concerns.
Sabrosky did note that he was in the process of trying to sell his building and wanted to know what would happen if a new owner wasn’t as keen on the alley idea as he was. City officials said the new owner could then communicate and work with MYAC if the gathering spot became an issue.
“We’ve been trying to rebuild downtown Kendallville,” Sabrosky said. “This is a good start. I am willing to support this.”
Board of works members Mayor Suzanne Handshoe, Don Gura and Jim Dazey all agreed that the MYAC group had done enough to address concerns raised by the property owners on either side of the alley.
“It sounds to me than you guys have more than addressed the issues along with Mr. Sabrosky’s building,” Gura said.
“It sounds like they’ve addressed everything,” Handshoe agreed.
The board of works voted 3-0 to allow MYAC to spruce up the alley. The project should get underway this spring and be ready in time for warmer weather.
“I think it sounds like a great project for the city of Kendallville,” Gura said.