Feb. 16--Greenwood will soon have money to fix up its aging downtown, the question is will they work with what they have or start over.
Council President David Hopper ignited the debate at a recent council meeting.
"Certainly count me in the camp of people who think we need to tear down old town Greenwood and start over, especially everything at Madison (and) Main street," Hopper said during the Feb. 3 council meeting.
The council on Tuesday will vote on an economic development plan that earmarks millions of dollars for downtown streets, sidewalks and building facades.
"When I see we're going to spend $2-and-a-half to some-odd $5-million dollars on facade improvements to me that seems like a waste of money," Hopper said. "But that's me."
Hopper's comments sparked irate responses on the Restore Old Town Greenwood Facebook page. The grassroots preservation group has been helping city officials apply for grants to restore facades on the city's historic buildings.
Members, group President John Michael Jones said, found Hopper's comments offensive and humiliating.
"It was just shocking to all of us and it angered all of us because we thought we had his support," Jones said, noting the volunteers in his organization have been working to make the city a better place for all residents.
"Some people just think newer is always better, but it's not," Jones said. "Sometimes you have to stop and appreciate what's been done in the past."
The city has applied for a $40,000 state grant that will pay an architect to study what it would cost to rebuild the downtown facades. When that study is complete, the city can apply for another grant to help fund the repair work.
Franklin is using one of these facade improvement grants to help fund some $650,000 in repairs. Work in downtown Franklin began last year, but the contractor seemingly shut down the project shortly after beginning in July and failed to meet construction deadlines. Mayor Joe McGuinness recently fired Advanced Restoration Contractors and hired Terstep Co. to take over.
Despite the setback, many look to Franklin as a model for what they'd like to see happen in Greenwood's downtown.
"I like the old buildings," Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said. "It's got some drawbacks because of the closeness of the buildings (to street traffic) but with the right plan it's workable."
On Tuesday, Greenwood's council will vote on a plan to expand an economic development area that holds the key to funding many downtown improvements. If approved, the measure goes to the Redevelopment Commission for a final vote.
The plan includes a tax increment financing district that the city hopes will fund more than $22.2 million in projects, more than $16 million of which would be spent on downtown streets, sidewalks, sewers, bike paths and redeveloping Old City Park.
The plan earmarks $2.5 million for downtown facade work, but leaves open the possibility that some of the old buildings might be torn down.
Instead of tearing down, Myers said the better path is to build up downtown and make it a better place to live and work.
"We're trying to revitalize the entire downtown," Myers said, "and bring it back to a vibrant, striving district."
Call Star reporter Vic Ryckaert at (317) 444-2701. Follow him on Twitter: @VicRyc.
Greenwood council members will vote Tuesdayon a plan to expand the eastside economic development district, which that the city hopes will fund an estimated $22.2 million in downtown infrastructure and other projects.
Here's the spending breakdown:
Preparing and marketing the Polk Building for sale: $200,000.
--Greenwood will sell its current city hall, 2 N. Madison Ave., when city offices move to a new building at Main and Madison later this year.
Main Street infrastructure: $8.25 million.
--Rebuild and widen Main Street, move utilities, improve sidewalks, improve traffic patterns, add parking, restore old buildings and redevelop Old City Park.
Market Plaza infrastructure: $5.25 million.
--Raise the topography above minimum elevations to allow development in Market Plaza.
Downtown pedestrian paths: $1.75 million
--Build sidewalks, trails and bike paths.
Sewer and storm water projects: $3.75 Million
--Downtown sewer improvements ($1 million); miscellaneous sewer work ($750,000); miscellaneous storm water improvements ($1 million); Pleasant Creek drainage ($1 million).
Downtown building facade and revitalization: $2.5 million
Airport improvements: $500,000
Total: $22.2 million
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