GOSHEN ENTREPRENEUR DAVE POTTINGER stands with a model of downtown Goshen Wednesday morning above Reverie Yarn, Decor & Gifts in Goshen. Staff photo by Ben Mikesell
GOSHEN ENTREPRENEUR DAVE POTTINGER stands with a model of downtown Goshen Wednesday morning above Reverie Yarn, Decor & Gifts in Goshen. Staff photo by Ben Mikesell
GOSHEN — The city is set to take possession of Main Street from the state Friday, marking the culmination of a long-awaited and much-discussed milestone that promises some major changes for the downtown thoroughfare.

Among those at the heart of that downtown vision is Goshen entrepreneur Dave Pottinger, who together with his wife, Faye, daughter, Maija Stutsman, and son-in-law, Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman, has spent years collaborating with other downtown business owners and stakeholders in formulating a comprehensive downtown renovation plan set for implementation once the Main Street changeover becomes official.

A craftsman and antique lover with a background in construction, Pottinger and his family have spent the past few decades purchasing and renovating numerous historic buildings downtown, all the while keeping their future vision for the city’s heart always at the forefront. 

So invested is Pottinger, in fact, that he has an entire floor of one of his buildings filled with hand-crafted models depicting what he hopes the downtown corridor will look like once the long-planned renovations are complete.

“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been working on this for years,” Pottinger said Wednesday morning while giving a tour of his models, located on the upper floor of the Reverie Yarn, Decor & Gifts building in downtown Goshen. “In 2010, our family put together an outline — Jeremy, Maija, Faye and I — and it was an outline of a number of the things that we wanted to see done. And by 2010, we had really started. So these (models) were part of our vision of what we thought should happen.”

THE CHANGEOVER

According to Leslie Biek, civil traffic engineer for the city, the transfer of Main Street from the state to the city is directly related to the recently completed U.S. 33 realignment project.

Also know as the North Connector route, the $18.9 million project involved rerouting U.S. 33 from in front of Goshen High School at Monroe Street, along the Ninth Street corridor to Pike Street. The project also included the placement of bridges over the Marion Branch of the Norfolk Southern rail line, Lincoln Avenue and Cottage Avenue, allowing Goshen drivers to cross town without being delayed by trains.

THE SWITCH

Once the changeover is completed Friday, Main Street from Pike Street to Madison Street and Madison from Main to the new U.S. 33 will officially belong to the city, Biek explained. As part of that change, Third Street will be turned over to the state, and will be relabeled as the new Ind. 15 route.

“The U.S. 33 bypass was put in to try and get traffic off of Main Street and to help traffic get through town quicker without as many lights. So it’s been a long time coming, and been in the works for a while,” Biek said of the change. “As it was, Main Street had both U.S. 33 and Ind. 15 on it, so the goal was to try to separate them to try and ease traffic a little bit.”

FIRST UP

According to Biek, once Main Street is in the city’s hands, initial plans for the downtown thoroughfare include repaving of Main and Madison streets, reducing Main from four lanes to two, and possibly adding angled parking on both sides of the street. Work on that portion of the renovations is scheduled to begin in late July or early August.

Ask Pottinger what he envisions for the downtown after the changeover, however, and the plan begins to blossom considerably, as demonstrated by his impeccably detailed models.

For Pottinger and his fellow stakeholders, local control of Main Street makes attainable not only the goal of limiting commercial traffic and improving safety along the thoroughfare, but it also signals the beginning of a long-envisioned Main Street makeover that once completed, promises a much more inviting and pedestrian-friendly downtown experience.

“For the past few years, it’s been a constant project, trying to get the state to give us Main Street so we could do something. And in preparation for that, I then built the models from Lincoln on down to Pike, and Jefferson and Madison. And what is shown here is probably pretty much what is going to happen,” Pottinger said of his models. “I’ve been working closely with the engineering department and the city, and what they’ve said is that they’re really grateful for my being involved, because this is kind of outside of their experience. They’re really good at the lighting and the sewers and all the practical things, but the streetscaping is outside of their realm.”

BIGGER VISION

In addition to the planned lane reduction and angled parking, Pottinger’s vision for the downtown includes a significant amount of additional streetscaping, including the planting of numerous street trees, the addition of many new landscaping and flower planters, and perhaps most notable, the addition of more and significantly larger “bump-outs”, allowing for more opportunities for downtown congregation and beautification. 

“This is not set in stone, but it’s pretty much probably what we will do,” Pottinger added of the plan. “In what time period, I don’t really know, because it’s a matter of money, and the city is always trying to prioritize where they put that.”

Speaking of money, Pottinger currently holds a seat on the Downtown Goshen Economic Improvement District Board, the body responsible for oversight of a downtown-only tax established in 1997 that pays for streetscaping, snow removal, decorations, etc.

To date, Pottinger said the EID Board has saved up about $75,000 in preparation for the Main Street changeover, though he admits more money will be needed in order to see the full vision of the downtown makeover made manifest.

“We’ve been saving our money for some time in preparation to do this, but we have not nearly enough, because we don’t take in that much income,” Pottinger said. “So this will have to be in combination with the city. The city is going to repave the street, that’s number one. And then the decisions have to be made, when they do that, are they going to put water in so that we can automatically water everything? Probably not. Are they going to improve the lighting? They think they will. But as far as building the bump-outs and planting the flowers and doing all of the trees and all of that, most of that shifts to the EID. But it’s going to have to be a combination.”

OVERARCHING GOAL

With a downtown vision more than three decades in the making now seemingly within his grasp, Pottinger attributes that vision’s steadfast longevity to one overarching goal: take what is already great, and make it even better.

“We have the buildings. We’ve done a lot of restoration, a lot of us. We have the scale. This isn’t Nappanee. This isn’t Elkhart. We have the proper size. We have a strong Mennonite community, which is very interested in community activity. So the goal, for me, is to continue to extend what we’ve already done,” Pottinger said. “It’s a combination of visually making it as comforting and interesting as possible so that our community can enjoy it, while at the same time ensuring that it will also attract outside people as well. So, what we’re trying to create is, I think, just sort of a visual experience, more park-like, calmed down, two lanes of traffic, and just trying to provide as much flexibility as possible when it comes to the available outside space. There are a whole lot of pieces that a lot of us are involved in, and I think, if and when this project is completed, I think Goshen is going to be a very exceptional little town.”

Scott Woldruff, owner of Woldruff’s Footwear & Apparel at 129 S. Main St. and a fellow Downtown Goshen EID Board member, was quick to agree.

“We’re excited, I’m excited, and I think everybody is. We’ve waited a long time for this,” Woldruff said of the impending Main Street changeover during a visit to his store early Wednesday afternoon. “I started this business in 1992, and it was being talked about even before that. So here we are, finally.”

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