Elkhart celebrates major milestone in River District Streetscape Project
ELKHART (July 25, 2019) – City officials, business leaders, and community members gathered this morning to celebrate the completion of improvements to East Jackson Boulevard and Elkhart Avenue, a major milestone in the overall River District Streetscape Project in downtown Elkhart.
As part of the celebration, Mayor Tim Neese officially reopened Jackson Boulevard to vehicular traffic with a ribbon cutting ceremony that traded the traditional scissors for a red convertible.
“The City makes routine road repairs on a daily basis, but this infrastructure project was part of a larger vision for our community that put research into practice,” Neese said. “As we looked at peer cities that are successfully growing their economies, we had a decision to make: were we willing to make the strategic investments necessary to attract new business and new people or were we comfortable with the status quo? This administration was not comfortable with the status quo.”
When the approximately $5 million project began in March 2018, it marked the first step by the City to redevelop the area known as the River District. The streetscape project was part of a larger commitment by the City to provide the public infrastructure necessary to support future growth and development in the area through the creation of an urban, walkable city center.
The enhanced portion of Jackson Boulevard stretches approximately a half mile from Waterfall Drive to Johnson Street.
The new divided boulevard aims to encourage motorists to slow down, while the visually appealing design makes the area more welcoming to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. A similar reconstructed streetscape, from sidewalk to sidewalk, was also completed on Elkhart Avenue from Jackson Boulevard to Waterfall Drive.
Combined, these projects added 10,000 feet of new sidewalk, 28 bike racks, 28 benches, 98 street lights, 87 trees and an additional 6,300 plants. The project also included 200 new parallel parking spots, one mile of new water main, 3,000 feet of new storm sewer as well as buried electric, cable and communication lines.
Through increased connectivity and walkability, the project is designed to complement existing Main Street assets as well as the new, private investment taking place in the River District, including Lex530, Elkhart Health and Aquatics, Stonewater at the Riverwalk, and River Point West.
With construction completed along Jackson Boulevard and Elkhart Avenue, the City will now focus on smaller-scale streetscape projects along Junior Achievement Drive and Lexington Avenue. Both are anticipated to be completed by 2020.
“As we continue this multi-phase transformation, I am cognizant of the fact that motorists and businesses must make temporary adjustments, however, by activating this space and encouraging additional foot traffic in the area, I believe adjacent businesses will reap the long-term benefits.”