Study of Elkhart County downtown areas seeks feedback from residents, business owners

NOW: Study of Elkhart County downtown areas seeks feedback from residents, business owners


ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. -- Through a series of community meetings in June and July, leaders in Elkhart County want to know what people like about their towns and how those communities can be improved.

The meetings are part of a larger project commissioned by the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Business consulting organization EnFocus is facilitating the meetings. 

Facilitators want feedback on retail and commerce, housing, events, diversity, and design in the downtown areas in six cities and towns in Elkhart County. 

According to organizers, the information will help community leaders assess their individual downtown areas and understand what people want in future development plans. 

On Thursday, there will be a meeting in Middlebury from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Middlebury Public Library. A meeting is scheduled for July 2 at the Wakarusa Public Library in Wakarusa. 

Nathan Miller owns Varns and Hoover in downtown Middlebury. 

“I think a lot of people want to stay small,” said Miller. “We want to keep that small community that feeling.” 

Miller thinks people love Middlebury’s close-knit downtown community atmosphere. 

“I think over the next 20 years, we’re going to see a lot of changes in Middlebury and I think they’re going to be good changes, but it’s important for the town and the people that live in the community to voice what they want because if they don’t voice what they want they’re not going to get it,” said Miller. 

Miller says some people complain about traffic on Main St., so he thinks residents would like to see better traffic patterns in and out of town.

“I do plan on attending it [the meeting],” said Miller. “I would like to know what the direction is that the town wants to go. We talk to a lot of people, we talk to a lot of community leaders, and I just want to see the town moving in the right direction. I want to make sure we’re making the right decisions.” 

Community meetings in Elkhart, Goshen, Nappanee, and Bristol were held earlier this month. However, EnFocus says if people missed meetings in their community, they can request an individual interview or participate in a survey. 

Paris Yensco, who moved to Middlebury in 2011, likes the town’s downtown area as it is, however, she encourages people in the county to voice their thoughts since it could affect what their communities look like in the future. 

“If you want to make your place better, your community better, you have to put your input in because no one is going to know what you’re problems or what you’re thinking if you don’t go and let them know,” said Yensco. “It’s part of being part of the community is being involved and talking about whatever needs to be fixed. I’m sure Elkhart and Goshen has little spots where they want to fix and you have the people that are there going, ‘Yes, we need this,’ and they’ll have ideas on how to fix is and maybe working together they can make it better.” 

To learn more about the study, click here

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