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The Changing Hoosier Downtown

Downtown Peru, Indiana (Wikimedia Commons)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

The downtown area has long been a staple of small town Hoosier life, but many are seeing changes due to shifting populations and economic fortunes.

While some downtown areas are stagnating, others are rapidly changing to fit with the times with large apartments taking the place of smaller mom and pop shops.

In the face of struggling downtown cores, the State seeks to support and revitalize smaller Indiana towns through initiatives like the IMPACT Main Street program and the Indiana Stellar Communities Program.

With programs like these, Indiana hopes to provide funding to support businesses, encourage expansion, and create jobs to revitalize and modernize these downtown areas.

This week on Noon Edition we talk to a panel of guests who are involved in supporting and revitalizing smaller downtown areas.

Guests

Becky Schepman, Executive Director of Seymour Main Street

Kristin Clary, Executive Director of Main Street Greencastle

Matt Crouch, Deputy Director of the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs

Conversation

Kristin Clary highlights the importance of state and federal funding for revitalization efforts in downtown Greencastle, as well as a local partnership with Depauw University.

“Being awarded that Stellar grant infused multiple millions of dollars into our community,” Clary says. “We also have a great partner in Depauw University. We partnered with them to help match the Stellar … We got some real dollars, about $12 million from state and federal funds, were infused in our community and that helped us do a downtown facade revitalization program.”

Matt Crouch defined characteristics of a successful and accessible downtown area.

“It’s about connectivity. Physically and connecting to the needs of your residents,” Crouch says. “How do you get around the downtown? How do you get to the businesses?… It’s also about creating that sense of place. If I have alleyways, we clean them up and activate the space. If I have a downtown park, it’s nice and clean and we have events at that location.”

Becky Schepman describes some of the steps they’ve taken in Seymour to let residents know how accessible everything is in the downtown area.

“We did some small pedestrian signs saying ‘You are a five minute walk’ from the downtown park, the farmers’ market, and the post office,” Schepman says. “We posted about eight of these signs in our downtown and are getting people to take a picture in front of them and say ‘Hey #WalkSeymour, look how close I am to all these places. I can park anywhere downtown and get anywhere in five minutes.’ And I think that’s very helpful.”

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