Kendalville MYAC proposes alley project

March 4th, 2019

By Steve Garbacz | KPC Media - The News Sun

Meeting up with friends for a downtown movie? How about getting a new place to gather and relax together before or after your show?

The Kendallville Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council wants to create that space for the city, establishing a new outdoor hangout in the alley that runs between the Strand Theatre and the antique shop.

At Tuesday’s Board of Works and Public Safety meeting, MYAC members pitched their plans to the city board.

“What we’re trying to do is create a downtown space for everyone to enjoy,” MYAC President Hailey Meyer said. “We see this being used during car shows, Christmas parade, after movies, we really see this being available for anyone to use.”

The youth council decided on an alley improvement idea after learning about similar projects throughout the state. Communities like Frankfort and Angola have taken little-used alleys and turned them into gathering places for the community.

Franklin, a suburban city south of Indianapolis, also completed a similar project in recent years, rehabbing an alley that runs alongside that community’s historic Artcraft Theatre and was widely used as a pedestrian corridor even before the improvements.

MYAC member Jack Jansen provided details about the plan, which would include a arch entryway, planters, accessible seating, decorative lighting and other features.

At the entrance on the Main Street sidewalk, MYAC would put up a decorative arch and install planter boxes that would choke the alley down to about 5 or 6 feet, preventing vehicles from entering off the road.

Once inside the alley, there will be four picnic-style tables set up that are also accessible to people in wheelchairs. The alley will be lit with eight light poles — an original plan to attach lighting on the walls was changed at the request of the Strand — that also have a space to hang flower boquets.

Two murals would be painted on the side of the antique shop and a maze would be painted on the ground toward the back of the alley that children could navigate.

In preparation for the improvements, MYAC would also pay for the alley to be repaved.

Meyer said at the back of the alley, two posts will be put up with a chain to stop cars from entering the back. The fire exits from the Strand and the loading dock at the antique store won’t be obstructed by the alley project. Vehicles can still enter the alley from the back of the buildings to make deliveries.

Kendallville Fire Chief Mike Riehm said he’s reviewed the plans and that there are no concerns with the fire code.

MYAC has a budget of $15,000 for the project. The group had already raised $9,000 and will use a $5,000 grant it won from a youth council summit it attended earlier this month, so the project is already nearly funded.

“We’re about $14,000 in of our $15,000 budget and I think that’s pretty generous and we’ll be able to get it done,” Meyer said.

The youth council isn’t asking for any financial support from the city, only permission to use the public alley for its project.

Mayor Suzanne Handshoe noted that the youth council has been working with the Strand to iron out some final details, as the owner expressed a few concerns with the project in the adjacent alley.

In order to try to address those concerns, the group has changed from wall-mounted lighting to free standing, kept the fire doors free and agreed to put up security cameras to watch for vandalism, Meyer and Jansen said.

Board of works member Don Gura asked a few questions about who would maintain the alley, to which MYAC members said Noble County Disposal would empty the downtown trash and that MYAC and, hopefully, the community at large would help to keep the alley clean. Meyer also said MYAC will be putting aside money for ongoing maintenance.

Since the project just came up Tuesday morning for the first time, Gura requested some additional time to look at the project area before voting. Board members voted to table any decision on the alley use until the March 12 meeting.

After the meeting adjourned, Gura and fellow board member Jim Dazey went across the street with MYAC members and group sponsor Kristen Johnson to take a closer look and talk through a few additional questions and concerns.

Categories Quality of Life