New Castle City Council members got their first look at preliminary plans for the 1400 Plaza, a parking and events area envisioned for the south side of the 1400 block of Broad St., during Monday’s regularly scheduled council meeting.
Catherine Puckett and James Rice, landscape architects with the firm HWC Engineering, which has offices in five Indiana cities including Muncie and Indianapolis, made a presentation to council members. They shared their vision of the proposed plaza and presented four options for the 100 block of S. 14th St.
Puckett said HWC representatives have spoken with a number of local elected officials and residents over the course of the past couple months and that their design for the plaza – which will feature a total of 109 parking spaces as well as an area for community events such as the Farmers Market, Broad Street cruise-ins and performances by bands and choirs – is in keeping with the input they received as well as the downtown revitalization strategy formulated a few years ago.
“What we’re trying to accomplish with this project is create a multi-use, flexible events space that also maximizes parking,” she said. “We’re really trying to figure out this balance between a space you can use for festivals and events, but that also provides the parking that you need to support downtown businesses and bring people downtown.”
The plaza, as designed, provides for water and electricity access at multiple points. Puckett said it is designed to be a low maintenance and kid friendly space and expands on existing downtown resources such as the Arts Park.
The design emphasizes parking on the west end to accommodate Jennings Building tenants and patrons of the ground-level businesses expected to occupy it. The east end features a stage-like area, landscaping features, an area that lends itself to seating and spaces where overhead cover will provide shade for event visitors.
A central walkway that runs parallel to Broad Street through the middle of the plaza would provide a “bridge” from the Jennings Building to the Arts Park, she said.
Council members had a few questions and suggestions about the design presented. Puckett said no final design decisions have been made, and if council members preferred changes to what is being proposed, those ideas could easily be incorporated into what is eventually constructed.
Mayor Greg York described the proposed design as “multi-use and very versatile.”
Council member Jerry Walden asked about a timeline for getting the project underway and the mayor said that depends on securing financing for the effort. He indicated the project comes with a price of approximately $1 million.
Puckett said HWC will continue to work on construction documents through the spring of 2018 and from there, depending on funding, the project could move forward all at once or in phases if need be.
City attorney Dave Copenhaver addressed how the project might be financed.
“The redevelopment commission has about $300,000 which they have committed to this project,” he said. “So, if it’s a $1 million project, you can see what the gap is. There are several ways that could be raised. The most advantageous would be an OCRA grant or something along that line. ... There’s also bonding possibilities through TIF funding because this is a TIF area.”
Copenhaver also pointed out all of those scenarios will take time.
After reviewing HWC’s proposal, it was agreed the matter should be tabled to allow council members additional time to study the plans and speak with constituents about the matter. Additional discussion and a possible vote is likely when the council next meets on Dec. 18.
As for the 100 block of S. 14th St., HWC’s four proposals all involve the street being open to traffic. Scenarios range from very little change to the infrastructure currently in place (allowing for both north and southbound traffic) to curving the street away from the side of the Jennings Building to allow for outside seating. Two of the four proposals would limit traffic to only southbound vehicles.
No decision regarding 14th Street was made at this week’s council meeting.