About 150 people attended a conversation at the Main Connection, 460 S. Main St., Martinsville, on Tuesday to hear from representatives from the Artesian Group, Launch Martinsville and the Martinsville Chamber of Commerce discuss a large investment project in the downtown area.
The Artesian Group is a joint effort between Craig and Mary Fenneman and Doug and Paula Molin, who plan to invest more than $4 million in buildings in downtown Martinsville.
Doug Molin said he was pleased at the number of people who attended the conversation and showed interest in their community.
“This is about two-way communication — us communicating to the city of Martinsville what our plans are. It is about us getting feedback from the community,” Molin said.
Craig Fenneman said a lot of the people in attendance at the event seemed enthusiastic about the project taking place.
“Tonight is to share our ideas and ask all of these folks about their ideas,” Fenneman said.
There were several pictures of downtown buildings in the Main Connection which allowed attendees to write down their suggestions about what should go into the buildings.
Some of those suggestions included a Thai restaurant, Indian restaurant, bookstore with a coffee shop, nail salon and more.
Molin and Fenneman took the time to introduce themselves and their wives and other representatives from local organizations like Jamie Taylor, president and CEO of the chamber of commerce, and Visit Morgan County Executive Director Tosha Daugherty.
“We are very excited to be partnering with the Molins and the Fennemans, the Artesian Group, and all they are doing for the downtown,” Taylor said.
Daugherty said it is an exciting time to be in Martinsville and Morgan County and that Visit Morgan County’s mission is to promote things in the county for visitors and residents to see and do.
“To be a place where people want to visit, you have to be a place where people want to live,” Daugherty said.
Fenneman asked attendees to close their eyes and imagine a thriving downtown.
“I see a bustling downtown with lots of smiling faces. Flowers along the streets and businesses, a whole variety of businesses there,” Fenneman said.
The Artesian Group is looking for a critical mass of restaurants.
According to Fenneman, there are already some great restaurants in the downtown and they want to complement those restaurants, not compete against them.
There are currently negotiations to bring several different restaurants to the area.
“In fact, I have gotten the approval to announce one of them tonight. It is Holy Smoke Hog Roast — they are a catering company. They have never been a restaurant before,” Fenneman said.
Fenneman said Holy Smoke will go into the building which faces the Martinsville Post Office on Main Street.
Later in the conversation, Fenneman announced he had been in negotiations with Big Woods Brewery to open a location at the Union Block Building, 10 E. Morgan St., but that Big Woods would not be part of the project.
He said he is still in negotiations to bring another brewpub to the city and hopes to make that announcement soon.
According to Fenneman, the back part of that building will be demolished soon because it is in such bad shape.
Martinsville Mayor Shannon Kohl also took the time to discuss the project in the downtown.
“I have always said we have such a beautiful downtown. A lot of cities would kill to have our downtown,” Kohl said.
Molin introduced Dave and Karen O’Haver and Tony and Connie Musgrave.
The O’Havers own the building at 56 E. Morgan St., and the Musgraves own the building at 21 N. Jefferson St.
Each owner plans to bring a new business into their respective building.
Before handing the conversation off to the public, Molin took the time to explain the expected timeline of the project.
“You are going to see dumpsters dropped everywhere. That is not always going to be fun for you. We are trying to do them behind the buildings where we can,” Molin said.
There are two separate teams working in over 20 buildings and the plan is to bring about 30 apartments to downtown and the plan is to complete the project in less than two years.
One of the first questions asked was about parking in the downtown.
Molin said the hope is to make alleyways in the area pedestrian alleyways which could open parking lots behind buildings.
In other communities, according to Molin, downtown visitors often cannot find a parking space in front of the business they are wishing to visit.
“It is not a bad thing to have to walk past a couple of businesses to get to where you are going,” Molin said.
Some of the attendees said there needs to be a way to attract people from the Ind. 37, and eventually Interstate 69, to downtown Martinsville.
Dan Elliott, Morgan County Councilman, said the county is working on a scenic byway project as a way to bring people off the highway.
“Whatever we want to be known for, we need to put our stamp on it,” Molin said.
Other ideas discussed at the event included public art and a museum focusing on Martinsville and Morgan County, among others.
After the conversation, Fenneman said he felt good about the ideas discussed at the event.
“The level of support and enthusiasm is very encouraging,” Fenneman said.
Molin took notes and said they will work with the ideas brought up during the conversation.
“I think it is clear that the community wants to be invested in this project. I have got three pages of notes and ideas that I did not have before this meeting,” Molin said.
Molin said there are plans to host similar events in the future and the Artesian Group will go public with the notes and ideas they have.