Public forum will launch study of Waterloo’s future
A public forum on the future of downtown Waterloo will take place Jan. 23 at 5:30 p.m. at Waterloo Grant Township Public Library.
The forum will start a four-month study of Waterloo by Ball State University urban planning students.
“This is vitally important for us to help these students get a vision and direction for our town,” said Sally Pease, president of the Waterloo Redevelopment Commission. She announced the forum to the Waterloo Town Council, which met Tuesday night in the library.
“We have to have public support for this. We have to have people show up to this public forum … with good ideas about how to revitalize our town,” Pease said.
As an incentive, free pizza and refreshments will be served at the forum, which is scheduled to last 90 minutes in the library at 300 S. Wayne St.
The day after the forum, Waterloo will begin a public survey about the town’s future. Copies will be available at Town Hall, 280 S. Wayne St., or online at waterlooin.gov. The survey will continue through Feb. 10.
Results of the survey will be presented in a public meeting Feb. 20 at 5:30 p.m. in the library.
Finally, Ball State students will present the results of their study April 17 at 5:30 p.m. in the library.
The students will take a tour of downtown Waterloo next Tuesday, Pease said.
“The Town of Waterloo is preparing to assess its downtown and imagine what it can become,” Town Manager Tena Woenker wrote in a news release announcing the study.
“The loss of Hart’s Grocery in 2015 left a large vacant space in the heart of town,” Woenker added. “Changing traffic patterns, changing demographics and expanded shopping opportunities in nearby communities have also impacted downtown. Community leaders are ready for a new perspective and fresh ideas to implement for the future of Waterloo.”
Concerned by reports that the former grocery store might be used for storage, the town’s Redevelopment Commission purchased the building and is exploring ideas about how to use the property.
“Buying that building gives us some control of the destiny of this critical block downtown so we can make it active again,” Woenker said.
“If we are going to make a big investment or entertain an offer by developers, we need to be sure the business model can succeed in Waterloo,” Woenker added. “This is important for both us and for the investors. We want it to work.”
“We’re excited about this project and hope to get great ideas for how to redevelop the Hart’s block, as well as the rest of downtown,” Pease said in the news release. “It’s my hope that this project will help Waterloo regain its vibrancy while maintaining its small-town charm.”