MICHIGAN CITY – Community meetings are underway to determine the shape of the future central plaza at Franklin and Seventh streets in the city’s Uptown Arts District, and the opinions of the city’s youth have been the focus so far.
Hubert Morgan of Stanhope Consulting met with elementary school students from the Boys & Girls Club and Safe Harbor programs at the old Elston School last week, and with older students from Safe Harbor’s Club Inspire at Michigan City High School on Tuesday.
“We are looking for – particularly from young people – an idea of what they would be excited about, why they would visit downtown,” Morgan said. “Because it’s not just planning for today, it’s planning for when they grow older, for our kids and our grandkids. So, it’s the future of Michigan City that’s right in front of us.
“The choices that they’re making might allow them to say, ‘If Michigan City gets shaped in ways that we have a say in it, we might decide that we want to come back here when we become adults.’ So, I think that’s one of the main reasons why hearing their voices is important.”
After asking some demographic questions and showing them examples of plazas in other cities, Morgan had the students vote on a series of features and programming they’d most like to see at the plaza.
Free food, swings, movies, an arcade and life-size games garnered the most support from high school students.
Other options that tallied a significant percentage of votes included concerts, street musicians, basketball, dancing, a jungle gym, bungee jumping, free Wi-Fi and taking selfies.
Sophomore Jalyn Walker said he hopes to see a variety of games at the plaza.
“I think it will be fun,” he said. “I’d take my girlfriend and we would probably hang out there for a few hours at a time.”
Freshman Breana Turman said she most hopes to see a giant swing set and jungle gym.
“I think it’s a really good idea (to build the plaza) because it will bring people together better than what we have going on right now,” she said.
Abigale Thayer, the city’s coordinator for special events and recreation, was present Tuesday to observe the meeting.
She said results of the focus groups with students will be discussed at later focus groups designed for adults to let them know what their children and grandchildren might like to see or do at the plaza.
According to Thayer, the dates and locations of the focus groups for adults have yet to be confirmed, but a schedule will be submitted for publication once available.