The team of consultants, architects and engineers which helped develop downtown Franklin will also do so for downtown Shelbyville.

The city's Redevelopment Commission approved an agreement with a group dubbed the Shelbyville Downtown Opportunities Team at Monday night's meeting.

SDOT includes Remenschneider Associates Inc., a landscape architecture and planning firm; Moody Nolan Architects; CrossRoad Engineers; and Anderson Partners, a legal firm specializing in real estate development and financing.

Ken Remenschneider, president of Remenschneider Associates, sees a lot of opportunity in downtown Shelbyville -- most prominently in Public Square.

"We see a lot of opportunity in your (historic) buildings, but what we think is really going to put this city into what we believe is the national limelight, is the opportunity of (Public Square)," he said. "That space is larger than a football field, and in the east-west dimension, it's 25 feet or so larger than Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. That is a huge opportunity.

"We feel like a parking lot -- I'm not saying we need to get rid of parking -- but a parking lot is probably not the highest, best use of all that space in downtown. ... What can we put in that space that becomes something of an attraction?"

Remenschneider thinks something "iconic" could be put in that space in place of a parking lot; he's just not sure yet what that would be.

But he's confident that downtown growth is critical to the city's growth.

"Downtown is where we want to create that special feeling of Shelbyville. That's where you have your historic fabric, it's where Shelbyville is uniquely Shelbyville," Remenschneider said. "Our more recent development often times looks like Anywhere, U.S.A. But Shelbyville has a very unique character in its downtown."

Remenschneider sees the Blue River Trail as the backbone for an alternative transportation plan.

"We see that as a huge step forward for the community, and it can easily serve as the backbone for the larger plan," he said.

Commission member Mark McNeely expressed concerns about the $139,750 contract with SDOT, especially in light of the $286,000 invested in the Methodist Building with no obvious return.

Redevelopment Director Rob Springer defended the investment, to an extent, saying, "That project, they're having to get their funding together to actually develop it. What that ($285K) was was predevelopment funds that we approved for them to get drawings for the building, which weren't existing, historical tax credits ... but yes, at the end of the day, it's not showing enough to show what we've done for it. We don't want to continue to have isolated projects. ...

"This is a different group that's not coming in saying, 'We would like you to incentivize us to develop a building.' This group is, 'We want to help you know how to better utilize those incentives in a better overall strategy for the entire city.'"

"We're focused on giving you the roadmap to be able to show to people, to development groups, what the opportunities are in the community," Remenschneider said.

"I'm really excited about this because I'm tired of going to meetings and talking about theories, having people give us a report that tells us what we already know," Springer said. "... I told Ken, we can't have anybody else come in and waste our time with another sheet of paper. We need an actual implementation of projects and strategies, we need grant writers and funding resources, we don't have that here. It's foolish to think we can do it on our own; we have to be leveraged with other people, and he has connections and networks throughout the state."

While noting that he couldn't comment on the specifics of SDOT's plan, Mainstreet Shelbyville President Chris King agreed that the city needs a plan for downtown.

"We're starting to see a flight from downtown. Mainstreet continues to invest in the facade grant program, and I think it's done some good, but we're fighting this uphill battle," King said. "There are structurally and infrastructurally some things that need to be addressed. The idea of coming up with an overall master plan for the downtown and understanding how we can invest in that, using the resources we have, through racino, EDIT, those types of things, also looking at what other opportunities are out there ... I think this is very important."

SDOT also presented its plan to the Shelbyville City Council Monday night. Afterward, Mayor Tom DeBaun said he hopes the council members will be involved in the plan.

"I'm glad to hear Ken say dusty plans do no good, because we have enough of those laying around right now," he said.

Copyright © 2020 The Shelbyville News