Developing Downtowns: New Carlisle

NEW CARLISLE, Ind. -- This summer, ABC57 is visiting Main Street to Main Street in Michiana's developing downtowns.

The series kicks off in New Carlisle, where the small town is bracing for big change.

"New Carlisle evolves slowly, and that's part of its charm," says Marcy Kauffman, New Carlisle Town Council President.

 When Kauffman walks through the doors of New Carlisle Town Hall, it reminds her of childhood.

"I grew up in New Carlisle, and I moved and lived in other places and went to college in California and things, but my hometown won out," says Kauffman.

 When she looks down Michigan Street, she sees empty buildings that once homed bustling businesses, residents frequenting the current town staples, and now a vision for growth coming their way. 

"We're seeing a definite, just transition in our downtown," explains Kauffman.

The small town is now on the map as the home of the largest investment the Hoosier State has ever seen, with an $11 billion Amazon Data Center coming to their backyard. 

Just across the street from that soon-to-be data center, also a soon-to-be $3 billion General Motors electric vehicle battery plant. 

Combined, bringing thousands of jobs to the outskirts of town. 

"With the recent announcement with Amazon and GM coming and things, it's a little bit scary," admits Kauffman. "The type of increased growth and magnitude we're not used to." 

"I really do believe once this stuff opens up, it's going to definitely take off," adds Margaret Czarnecki, owner of Carlise Coffee and Sweets and Moser's Austrian Cafe.

The picture-perfect corner coffee shop, run by Czarnecki, is already getting a taste of what it's like to have thousands of potential new customers just a short five-minute drive away. 

 "With the businesses coming in, I'll have somebody, a gentleman, come in in the morning, 'I'll take a dozen muffins,' and I'll look at him and I'm like 'We don't have a dozen muffins! We sell maybe three muffins a day,'" Czarnecki shares.

More people mean a shot in the arm for downtown businesses, but not everyone in town is just as convinced. 

"I'm all about progress as long as it's positive progress," said one New Carlisle resident in reaction to the GM battery plant.

"You take pride in a small town like this," said another resident.

"I've always been for growth, but I want it to be a growth that's going to fit in with the community," shared another resident about the developments.

The initial news of the multi-billion-dollar developments over the past year, leading to tense county council meetings, "No IEC" signs stuck into front lawns, and the fear of an "urban sprawl". 

"I think it is possible, I just do," says Kauffman about keeping New Carlisle a quaint town. "I have to believe that we will make smart decisions, that we will work with the new companies in order to have them help us." 

As New Carlisle Town Council President, it's Kauffman's priority to make sure it's possible to keep that charming, small-town feel everyone loves. 

She says there is room to grow downtown; "The Village Shoppes" closed their doors after decades of business leaving space for new establishments and dedicating the west end of town for future commercial and retail that might eye their main street. 

"We're really working hard at a town level to make that growth be measured and sustainable and planned, just so that we don't sort of blow up," Kauffman assures.

That includes more housing, like a plan for additional subdivisions close to downtown.

"We're very concerned about walkability and if new commercial area pops up, that we can make it walkable and safe for kids to ride bikes and moms and dads with strollers to get around safely," says Kauffman.

"People here have families and they're just here to live a happy life, go to a good school, and work their job," Czarnecki says.

Czarnecki looks forward to continuing serving her regulars and the new regulars she'll meet in the coming years. 

"This coffee shop remains open because 14 years is pretty long, or 13 years, because of the town's people," says Czarnecki.

Kauffman echoes the town slogan to current and future residents who find their home there, "New Carlisle is a nice place to visit, a great place to live." 

"I'd just say, welcome! And you're choosing a wonderful place to move to," Kauffman explains how she'd welcome new residents to town. "We all appreciate our town so much and that's why we've all chosen to live here." 

There isn't a date marked for when the Amazon Data Center will be up and running just yet, so people know they still have some time to prepare before they really start to see an influx of people in the area. 

Kauffman also reiterates this is a county-wide growth, so not necessarily every Amazon worker will be making their home in New Carlisle.

Watch ABC57's Julianne Grohowski 's full segment as well as other local news stories from around Michiana tonight at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on ABC57 and streaming on ABC57.com.

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