Plymouth Streetscapes

I attended a meeting last Tuesday night at The Rees where there was discussion of possible renovations to the downtown streetscape. They were mainly looking at the area from the railroad viaduct on the south end to Jefferson Street on the north end. Updating the streetscape is one of the initiatives of City of Plymouth‘s new Mayor, Robert Listenberger. Several concepts were presented and there was time for public input on those concepts. There was also the opportunity to put forth other ideas. There was a fairly diverse crowd of around 50 people there for the presentation.

The last streetscape was created around 40 years ago. Many aspects of downtown Plymouth have changed since then, not least of which include the turnover in businesses and the shift towards making the downtown more of an entertainment district. This began with the Wild Rose Moon and has continued with River Park Square, The Rees and the new Yellow River Brewery planned just south of The Rees. A fairly recent State Law allows for the creation of districts like this which would make it easier to have street festivals. The main change here would be the ability to have “open container” alcohol use throughout the district. Right now, alcohol served outside of licensed venues can only be done in “beer gardens”, which usually amount to snow fence pens containing those who choose to imbibe.

As always the parking issue was front and center. Very few people there would say there was too much parking downtown, and most were very concerned about reducing the number of street spaces. Some were concerned that new development downtown was being encouraged without adding parking. The counterpoint to that are two traffic studies that have been completed, one by Andrews University and one by MACOG. MACOG’s is the most recent, which showed a surplus of 500+ spaces. Shopkeepers were mainly concerned about the number of street parking spaces directly adjacent to their business.

Several interesting concept drawings were presented showing various traffic calming measures for Michigan Street. There were also opportunities to provide additional green space along the sidewalks, outdoor dining for restaurant patrons and overall improved traffic controls. There was a lot of initial skepticism, but some minds were won over with the possibilities that could be unlocked.

There was also a concept changing the first block of Garro Street west of Michigan Street to an intermittent street festival site. This section is currently used this way, but with saw horse barricades. The revised concept would enhance this, with decorative pavement patterns and decorative removable bollards. The Garro Street enhancement received nearly 100% positive feedback.

A major stumbling block remains, with this area of Michigan Street existing as an extension of S.R. 17, thus the R.O.W. belongs to the State of Indiana. Any negotiation would require accommodations between INDOT and Plymouth. This would include any changes to curbs, sidewalks, speed limits and traffic control measures such as stop lights. That brought up a side conversation of relocating S.R. 17. The consensus was that it made the most sense to relocate it to Pine Road, but I had to bring up the Culver’s Sycamore Road initiative. (Previously mentioned in a post here.)

The conversation was similar to what has been discussed in Culver (Previously mentioned in a post here.) with some of the same conflicting arguments. Culver’s Town Council somewhat surprised the downtown merchants with the street improvements. They won a grant for the work that they really didn’t expect to get. They didn’t do their standard education ahead of the project, leading some to feel left out of the loop. In this case, Plymouth seems to be taking the correct tact, by gathering input before the project proceeds too far into planning.

I think the goals are laudable and I hope Mayor Listenberger is successful with the revitalization changes he would like to make. He is approaching it as a businessman, which gives him more empathy in why the change will be hard, but ultimately will be a change for the better. I look forward to more discussion on how this can be moved forward.

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