The new Main Street plan envisions a pedestrian-friendly area on the south side of downtown (the area at right in the drawing). The area would be set up so traffic could be diverted away from it for special events, a consultant said.
FORTVILLE — The final layout of a plan to revitalize Fortville’s main drag reduces the number of lost parking spaces, which worried business owners when the plan was revealed last fall.
That doesn’t mean everyone is satisfied with the plan. Some still think that too many on-street spaces are being lost. Others, however, maintain it’s a worthy sacrifice for the increased safety expected to result.
The Fortville Town Council approved the layout for proposed Main Street improvements earlier this week. The project will cover the area from Church Street to Broadway Street and will include rehabilitating the street and changing on-street parking. It also will add bump-outs to crosswalks and intersections and widen sidewalks by up to 18 inches. Trees will be planted along sidewalks, and pedestrian lighting, signage and benches will also be added.
But the big question for business owners is the project’s effect on parking: There are currently 86 on-street parking spaces in the proposed project area. An earlier version of the plan would have reduced that total to 67. The version approved this week leaves 73 spaces.
Martin Peters, owner of M &J Firearms at 24 S. Main St., said he’s not against the project but wishes it didn’t reduce the number of parking spaces outside his business and others along Main Street.
“We need as much parking as possible,” he said.
It was the same reason Fortville Town Councilman Fritz Fentz cited for being the only nay vote when the council considered the layout. He said he doesn’t oppose redoing Main Street’s sidewalks but that he had to vote against the plan due to the loss of parking and the negative impact he expects that would have on commerce in the area.
Council members Michael Frischkorn, Robert Holland and Tim Hexamer voted in favor of the layout. Lenzy Hendrix was not present.
Frischkorn said the project will make Main Street safer for both pedestrians and drivers and is a wise use of public funds.
Under the plan’s layout, Main Street between Pearl and Noel streets will become a one-way “speed table” (a block-long, slightly elevated area of pavement akin to a speed bump) for southbound traffic on the west side of the street while bollards will cordon off space to the east for pedestrians. The side reserved for vehicles will be able to be closed off with removable bollards to connect the area to the park on the west side of Main Street for events.
Deb Kunce, managing principal of Indianapolis-based CORE Planning Strategies, presented the updated plan at the Fortville Town Council meeting. She said feedback from business owners on the proposal for Main Street between Pearl and Noel streets ran the gamut of wanting to keep it open, making it one-way, allowing parking, disallowing parking and being able to close it off for events.
“What we think we’ve come up with is a really good opportunity to bring all of those options together,” Kunce said.
Renderings for the project depict the speed table and pedestrian area as having a similar appearance. Eric Garst of Garst Rx Pharmacy at 325 S. Main St. said at the town council meeting that he was concerned the likeness might lead pedestrians to think the entire expanse is for walking. Bollards might not be enough to keep walkers from wandering into the part reserved for vehicles, and a more defined barrier may be necessary, he added.
Kunce and Frischkorn said while the final layout of the plan was up for consideration, there will still be plenty of opportunities in the future to work out details resolving concerns like the one Garst raised.
Officials emphasized that the town is not taking on debt for the project and that paying for the project will not spur tax increases. The Federal Highway Administration is covering 80 percent of the estimated $2.3 million project while the Fortville Redevelopment Commission has committed the local 20 percent match with tax increment financing dollars it oversees.
Garst told the Daily Reporter that he thinks the project will be a great way to update Main Street’s sidewalks and allow pedestrians to to move around more safely.
His pharmacy is just south of where Main Street will become one-way. He said while he would have liked to have seen the street remain two-way there, the change will be worthwhile if it increases safety.
Jim Huber, quartermaster of the VFW at 206 S. Main St., said he welcomes the project and doesn’t think the decrease in parking will discourage people from visiting the VFW post.
Proponents of the project say the narrower roadway, bump-outs and more visible crosswalks will slow down vehicle traffic. But Peters said in his gun shop this week that he hopes it won’t slow traffic so much that drivers find themselves stuck over the railroad tracks that cross Main Street.
During her presentation at the town council meeting, Kunce said that Core Planning Strategies has met with about 75 percent of property owners in the project area and that property owners have been invited to regular meetings on the project.
Mary Lou Garrison, a Fortville resident, expressed her opposition toward most of the project at the council meeting. She agreed Main Street’s sidewalks need to be improved, but accused officials of not being up front about the project and caring about “grand ideas” more than their constituents.
“You want this to be Fishers, you want this to be Geist,” Garrison said. “There’s nothing wrong with the way Fortville is.”
The Madison County Council of Governments awarded the federal grant funding to Fortville last year. Jerry Bridges, executive director of the council, said at Fortville’s meeting that public input prompted the Main Street plan, that planning began in 2012 and that there have been opportunities for feedback ever since.
Garrison also asked how much money has been spent on the project to date and from what sources. Town officials did not know offhand but said they would have that information at the next town council meeting on March 18.