Letting the dominoes fall, Elkhart mayor announces 'Aspire Elkhart 2024'

NOW: Letting the dominoes fall, Elkhart mayor announces ’Aspire Elkhart 2024’

ELKHART, Ind. -- A plan to revitalize downtown Elkhart is in motion after getting approval from the city council Monday night. Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson is dubbing it “Aspire Elkhart 2024.”

Before new housing, investment, and business can come in, some groundwork needs to be done.

“Elkhart is on the verge of some transformative change,” Roberson said.

The first step has the green light after Elkhart City Common Council approved the $14.5 million Benham Avenue project Monday night.

“It takes a 40-year problem, that we’ve had—I take that back, 50, 60 years because when I was a kid, that area flooded, and it floods with sewer and stormwater,” Roberson said.

Work started 20 years ago to address the Benham area, but was never completed. The city will be separating sewer and stormwater drainage—as mandated by the federal government—and installing larger pipes and valves.

“This particular project lays the groundwork for business investment, infill housing, remodel and repair of existing housing, changing our building codes,” Roberson said.

Water mains will now match the streetscape and allow for the development of infill housing, neighborhood growth, and business investment.

Additionally, it will turn second and third streets in the city—currently one-ways—into two-way streets—which some business owners are in favor of.

“Logistically speaking, I think the going two way of Second and Third Street is a no-brainer. It’s going to open up traffic flow," said Danny Reynolds with Stephenson's Women's Fashions. "We’ve had people for many years ask us why that hasn’t been, so now it’s exciting that we’re going to see that come to fruition.”

“It’ll allow businesses to grow in those particular areas," Roberson said. "It calms traffic, and it allows us to be able to grow an area that’s been hard-pressed to find additional investment in between second and third street. This one project allows us to do both of those.”

And for businesses like Stephenson’s Women’s Fashions, they say it can only benefit.

“What could go wrong?" Reynolds said. "It’s going to encourage entrepreneurship, it’s going to encourage people to come downtown, live work, and play downtown, and that’s what we’re all about.”

It combines the goals of two city plans, one for downtown and one for the Benham neighborhood.

“Aspire Elkhart is a wonderful, kind of over-arching plan that allows us to bring these other investments into place where it makes sense for those neighborhoods.”

So what’s next?

It could be several things, perhaps the promised development in the Benham neighborhood at the Kelby Love mural on South Main Street.

It could be the downtown amphitheater work that’s to come—or perhaps the plans for a new state-of-the-art police station.

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