Ligonier looks to capitalize on momentum
By Kelly Lynch | KPC News - The News Sun
Goals from 2016 are turning into realized projects in 2017 in the city of Ligonier.
As Mayor Patty Fisel prepares for her State of the City address scheduled for early February, she’s taking the time to look back over the past 12 months in order to determine the biggest projects in the coming year.
City leaders have accomplished nearly every goal she set for Ligonier in early 2016, including breaking ground on Riverside Villa Apartments, receiving grant funding for a waterworks improvement project, and nearing completion of an overhaul of the wastewater treatment plant and separation of combined sewers throughout the city.
Now she wants to use that momentum to move forward with other plans to help improve the city and its amenities.
In an interview Tuesday at City Hall, Fisel outlined some of the biggest projects, goals and hopes for the coming year.
Greenway comes downtown
The Strawberry Valley Greenway is a $4.65 million proposed project to connect the industrial park in Ligonier to nearby parks, as well as Fashion Farm and downtown businesses. But in the new year, the city’s trails effort is getting a face-lift with some new engineering ideas.
The greenway project, which is an expansion of the current Elkhart Riverwalk, has stalled in recent months as the city sees how other trails projects fare in applying for Regional Cities Initiative funding from the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority.
The new route for the greenway aims at getting visitors to spend more time downtown by providing easy access to attractions such as the Ligonier Visitors Center, Ahavath Sholom and the Ligonier Public Library.
“We want to connect the murals, we want to connect the statues, the bronze statues, we want to make them focal points along this path, and we want to connect all of our parks. It will be a walking path right inside the city itself,” Fisel said.
“I think it’s going to be a major part of our trails system, not just along the river connecting the industrial park to the downtown, which is important, but it’s going to be even more than that.”
She hopes to see the city’s businesses and residents contribute to the project as a reflection of their pride and ownership in the community.
One of Fisel’s biggest hopes for 2017 is for residents and business owners to take advantage of city financial assistance programs.
For business owners, Ligonier’s facade improvement grant program will match the cost of exterior improvements, up to $30,000 in total construction.
“We need to bring it up wherever possible to keep that in people’s minds downtown here that have businesses and can improve them up to $15,000,” Ligonier Building Administrator Earle Franklin said. “We do what we can to help you maintain your stores and storefronts and backs, roofs.”
Fisel said it’s a broad program that is willing to help with the entire exterior of a building, not just the front face, including murals, sidewalks and signs, and more business owners should take the application process into consideration when making investments.
And for homeowners, the same can be said for the city’s recently implemented sidewalk improvement program. Matching 50 percent of the cost, both the city and the resident benefit from taking care of aesthetic and liability issues that come with broken sidewalks.
Spring cleaning, construction
Multiple projects that were approved or funded in 2016 will kick off construction in the spring.
The former site of Superior Sample Co. on Fourth Street will see the installation of a horse and carriage parking area for the local Amish community, while the residence at 112 W. Third St. will be demolished and paved to make way for additional public parking downtown.
Construction also will begin on a new retaining wall covering a 250-foot stretch of the Elkhart River, east of Cavin Street near Third Street, to help stop erosion of the riverbank that threatens nearby properties.
Riverside Villa Apartments, a $7.8 million, 54-unit complex located at 200 Water St., broke ground last November and is currently under construction. It’s estimated to open in November of this year.
A long shot
Fisel plans to take up state Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, on her offer to work on creating another railroad crossing on the north side of downtown Ligonier, even if she’s unsure of the outcome.
“It’s a long shot, but she offered to work with us, so we’re going to take her up on it,” Fisel said.
Glick, Fisel and city leaders will work together to try and designate the former Pigeon Street crossing as another option for motorists, as the city currently has just two crossings, with one at the viaduct on North Cavin Street and the other on Gerber Street.
The two existing crossings could pose a public-safety issue if both are closed to traffic for whatever reason and emergency vehicles are forced to travel outside the city to reach the other side of the railroad tracks.
The Pigeon Street crossing was taken out of commission when a new option was implemented on Gerber Street to accommodate the industrial park, and the city was no longer able to pay for the high cost of maintenance at the former site.