Kendallville Mayor's Youth Advisary Council members gathered Friday to dedicate The Alley, a downtown gathering place project funded and completed by the group. Holding scissors are current MYAC President Ben Jansen and former president Hailey Meyer. Staff photo by Steve Garbacz
Kendallville Mayor's Youth Advisary Council members gathered Friday to dedicate The Alley, a downtown gathering place project funded and completed by the group. Holding scissors are current MYAC President Ben Jansen and former president Hailey Meyer. Staff photo by Steve Garbacz
KENDALLVILLE — If you’re looking for a place to take a load off in downtown Kendallville, The Alley is now officially ready for you.

That’s not to say people haven’t already been taking a break at picnic tables and enjoy the murals between The Strand and the now-Stout Barbell gym, but on Friday, the Mayor's Youth Advisory Council made it official.

With a dedication, thanks for the many sponsors and people who worked on the project and a ribbon cutting with the ceremonial giant scissors, The Alley is complete.

“I hope to see more and see the community really embrace this,” said former MYAC President Hailey Meyer, who was at the lead of the local youth council when the project was founded in 2018.

“We just really hope it will bring people downtown,” said now-President Ben Jansen. “That has been lacking in the past.”

The project was an aggressive undertaking for the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, a local youth leadership organization that learns about city functioning but also helps raise money and complete community-betterment projects around town.

The 2018-19 council came up with the idea to renovate the alley between The Strand and the then-antique shop into a new gathering place.

With Kendallville focused on downtown revitalization as a main goal for the city — and with the idea coming to paper even before the city secured it’s $600,000 streetscape grant — the team earned the approval of the building owners, received OKs from city government and then coordinated a construction plan with contractors.

The more than $15,000 project started to take shape last year, with the mural getting painted, alley torn up and paved and picnic tables set. A personalized arch was put up at the Main Street entrance to create a gateway.

Things quieted for several months, but with planters, garbage cans, overhead lighting on a light sensor and security cameras in place, the project was topped off and finished this summer.

“The Alley is officially done,” Jansen announced to celebratory cheers from MYAC members and other attendees from the city. “We’re really happy to add a little brightness into the community.”

Right now, The Alley is looking sharp but the area in front of it is currently a bit rough. Crews working on Kendallville’s downtown streetscape have recently torn up the old sidewalks in front of the entrance, so there’s no concrete in place at the moment leading in.

But once the streetscape work is done, The Alley will tie in and add to the other improvements Kendallville has been making in recent years including the mobile parklet in front of the Kendallville Area Chamber of Office — not out yet this year due to construction but maybe rolling in later this summer — and the boost downtown has received from successful street festivals and events like Food Truck Fridays, the Kendallville Car Show, the Vintage Market at Apple Festival time and the new Fairy, Gnome and Troll Festival.

Mayor Suzanne Handshoe said even before today she’s already seen people taking their lunch to The Alley to eat during the day and other people gathering there to hang out.

“This turned out beautiful and they learned a lot in the process,” Handshoe said.

After such an ambitious undertaking over the last two years, Jansen said the MYAC is tackling smaller projects around town right now, but looks forward to its next big thing sometime in the future.
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