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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
    Alexandra Hall describes the artwork she and Alex Mendez put on the MKM architecture + design building. Mendez provided the shape, and Hall painted on top of it.
October 19, 2016 1:02 AM

Volunteer group looking to make downtown a bit more inviting

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

Bill Brown doesn’t just want to get more people downtown, he wants them to stay for a while.

And he’s not the only one.

That’s why the Downtown Improvement District’s president is exploring multiple efforts to make the area more inviting, including adding more public art, installing more benches and creating a crosswalk to encourage pedestrians to cross Clinton Street between the Rousseau Centre’s public parking garage and Freimann Square. The Rousseau Centre is the former city-county building at the northwest corner of Clinton and Main streets.

Brown, who is also an Allen County Council member, is working with volunteer board members to tackle ways to improve downtown’s “public realm,” the area available for public use, including parks, open spaces, streets and trails.

The Public Realm Committee is adding members and scheduling meetings in coming months, he said. Its only meeting so far as an ad hoc group was in July.

The Downtown Improvement District is uniquely positioned to head the effort because it represents the interests of downtown property owners, including many businesses that hope to attract more visitors, diners and shoppers. Its primary responsibilities include keeping downtown clean and green and organizing events such as last weekend’s Fright Night and next month’s Night of Lights.

The organization is also called on to oversee some special projects.

For example, Brown was asked to coordinate the purchase and installation of an artwork that would be dedicated to the memory of Christy Landrigan, a one-time Downtown Improvement District employee.

The Homestead High School graduate had worked as a securities consultant with Lincoln Financial Advisors for four years before she was killed in a car accident in January.

Lincoln National Corp. and Landrigan’s co-workers donated more than $6,000 for the piece, which was created by local artists Alexandra Hall and Alex Mendez.

The fund includes money to maintain and insure the $3,000 artwork, which was installed this month on the side of the MKM architecture + design building, 119 W. Wayne St.

Officials hope more public art will come. They have identified an area they refer to as “double plus” for future art installations. The name was adopted because the two intersections resemble two plus signs on Google Maps, Brown said.

Although the Downtown Improvement District doesn’t have the money to pay for public art, officials are happy to coordinate donations made by local residents and business owners.

The organization would also like to partner with property owners to buy more benches for downtown, with each paying half the cost, Brown said.

Some of those plans are shorter-term, but Brown is also looking a few years down the road at efforts to connect The Landing area on West Columbia Street to the Riverfront Development and existing downtown gathering places, including Freimann Square and the Arts United campus.

A crossing on Clinton Street might prompt more visitors to park in the Rousseau Centre’s garage, which is open to the public and free on evenings and weekends.

Many people don’t think about using that garage or walking across the Rousseau plaza, Brown said.

“We’re just trying,” he said, “to pull the pieces together.”