I believe in Elkhart. I love this city. For years, I’ve been engaged in community conversations that have inspired change by creating an awareness of issues and providing a diverse public platform for feedback and engagement.
Over 10 years ago, the Horizon Project defined downtown revitalization as key for Elkhart County cities and towns. Since that time, all of our communities have recognized the importance of revitalizing their downtowns and have achieved positive change.
The most recent project I’ve been engaged with is SoMa (Supporting our Main Assets), a downtown Elkhart revitalization initiative we’ve been working on for more than two years. One of our study areas included exploring the meaning of being meaningful.
When we think about a city being meaningful we asked questions such as:
1. How do people connect?
2. How do they work together?
3. What seems to be important enough for people to gather around and support?
4. Does the community sing its praise?
Downtown Elkhart is recreating itself and is truly becoming a meaningful place. It’s a neighborhood that’s filled with people who are energized by a new vision of how the core of the city functions, and the role they have in creating a sustainable future for downtown.
We all understand the meaning of value, and there’s no higher value than love. As the chamber socializes the 500 Families initiative, let’s all get on board and begin verbalizing how much we love and appreciate downtown Elkhart. It’s our choice to create the narrative we use to define our community and our narrative influences new investment. Expressing our community pride can be the most influential asset in the revitalization of our city.
Don’t hesitate to voice the pride you have in Elkhart because the financial investment by both public and private sectors is marginalized without a narrative that demonstrates community pride.
Our downtown has a cluster of amazing assets all located along an easy to navigate one mile trail. Starting at the north gateway in the Garden District, meandering thru the RiverWalk District and into the Arts & Entertainment District, you can enjoy beautiful and inspiring botanic gardens, five outstanding museums, a lovely RiverWalk, three blue ways, a necklace of greenways, IUSB Elkhart Center, and a world-class theater and event facility.
The new RiverWalk Culture Trail links and bundles all of our downtown assets, including restaurants, pubs, shops, and music, dance and yoga studios, connecting more quality of place options than any other city or town in our region.
Elkhart is fortunate to have a strong foundation of assets. The public and private sector have all contributed to the renaissance of our city. Yet, the most important piece of the renaissance is how we as the community become engaged in creating and enjoying our city.
We all have a role to play. Visit downtown and patronize the shops, restaurants, attend the downtown festivals and events, purchase a membership at one or all of the museums and attractions downtown. Become engaged by volunteering with any or all of the activities and attractions held downtown.
Most important, be an advocate and communicate pride in your city. The image of our city is a reflection of each of us. We tell others how we feel about ourselves by the narrative we use to define our city. SoMa is proud. SoMa is inclusive. SoMa is inspiring. Join SoMa in telling the compelling and interesting story of Elkhart.
Diana Lawson is executive director of the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau and served as chairwoman of the SoMa initiative. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org