ELKHART — Plans for the developing the “River District” — a 105-acre area here bordered by the St. Joseph and Elkhart rivers — are centered around building housing to attract millennials and baby boomers.
Housing plans for the extended downtown district, which were highlighted Thursday at the Lerner Theatre, come as Elkhart County has an unemployment rate below 3 percent and is looking to fill thousands of jobs with skilled workers.
Officials leading the multimillion dollar project gave people at taste of the plans for the district during the presentation. Plans for the project are being finalized by the River District Implementation Team, a public-private partnership that was commissioned last year by the city of Elkhart to lead the project. The final plan will be announced in April.
All told, the plan calls for a public investment of $30 million and a private investment of $200 million. The goal is to transform the area with streetscape improvements and new housing, making it a desirable place to live.
Among other things, the project calls for narrowing Jackson Boulevard and other streets, allowing sidewalks to be widened. And housing projects call for more building hundreds of units in the coming years, with apartments and town homes built atop ground-floor retail spaces. Recreational access points to the rivers, meanwhile, will encourage kayaking, tubing and the use of other small watercraft.
One of the major highlights will be the $69.5 million aquatic, fitness, and community center that is under construction in the northwest corner of the district and slated to open in 2019.