WEST LAFAYETTE — Sporting a bright blue T-shirt that read, "#SHOPSTATE," Larry Oates stood on State Street Monday morning welcoming passersby to the new downtown West Lafayette.
"That's that sense of place," said Oates, the city's redevelopment commission president. "When you walk up and down here ... there's already a feel of it."
Monday was a monumental day for West Lafayette. A major stretch of State Street — from Salisbury Street to North University Street — reopened as a two-way, complete with an adjoining bike path, just as new Purdue University students came to campus for orientation.
Monday also marked the start of the final phase of the $120 million State Street project that aims to transform the main street that runs through Purdue's campus to create a pedestrian- and bike-friendly community for the future. The final stretch of State Street, from Airport/McCormick Road to North University Street, will open Nov. 30.
The city's excitement was apparent in Chauncey Village as Oates and dozens of other volunteers wearing the "#SHOPSTATE" shirts and waving "Welcome" signs greeted students and community members to the freshly paved road and sidewalks. Skateboarders and bicyclists rolled down the new bike lane. Music played from a stereo outside Greyhouse Coffee & Supply Co., where two ping pong tables were set up.
It evoked a similar "sense of place" and energy as a larger city that isn't just a college town. And that's exactly what leaders are hoping to build with the new and improved downtown.
"What we need to do, and what we’re working on doing, is making it a scenario where people from all over … come down to State Street. This isn’t a place that’s aimed just at college students," said Erik Carlson, West Lafayette's development director. "It certainly is benefited by the college students, but there’s something for everybody that’s down here."