ELKHART — The city could become a regional transportation hub with the development of a Transit Transfer Center at the northern edge of downtown's Central Park.
Mayor Dick Moore proposed the construction of a “green energy efficient transfer station” during his fifth State of the City Address Wednesday night at the Lerner Theatre.
The Michiana Area Council of Governments approached the city with the idea and the project will be paid for entirely with federal funds, Moore said after the speech. Construction would be in 2013.
The park-and-ride station, which will front High Street, would include an indoor shelter, a natural foods market, a daycare center and an internet cafe bookstore, Moore said.
He told MACOG the city would not agree to the project “if we don't have something to say about the design.”
MACOG is giving the city input.
The center also will include a band shelter in Central Park, “providing an urban garden atmosphere. The band shell will face the park's natural amphitheater setting and will be designed to encourage a quality-of-life and community interactive atmosphere as part of the transit experience,” Moore said.
MACOG offered to incorporate the band shell into the back of the transfer station, he said. The city expected to pay for the band shell and a parking lot for Central Park out of downtown Tax Incremental Financing District funds, Moore said, so the project “actually could come at no cost to us.”
The transfer center will be in walking distance of “major community traffic generators” such as downtown shops and businesses, WorkOne, the Lerner Theatre, IU Elkhart and Amtrak, the mayor said.
The center will offer bike racks “and accommodations for riders allowing more transportation choices to reduce the cost to the user, aid in improving the air quality and in a small way help to reduce our nation's overall dependence on oil,” the mayor said.
Moore said the center will support the city's efforts to target federal and local funding toward the heart of Elkhart “through transit-oriented, mixed-use development and land recycling. The project takes center stage in the center of downtown Elkhart on the former site of a hotel and current site of our Central Park and a parking lot.”
Central Park still will be used as a park, but also as an additional summer venue, Moore said.
“We have the opportunity to do all of this without using any local taxpayer dollars,” he said.
Moore said that ridership on the Trolley increased by 39 percent between 2010 and 2011, while ridership on Heart City Rider increased by 15 percent. Both are MACGO programs.
The mayor said he could not answer whether Greyhound service would be part of the transfer center.
On a related topic, Moore said during his speech that the city will revisit angled parking for downtown. With the Lerner accommodating more than 2,100 people at full capacity and more people living downtown, parking is at a premium, he said.
The city will look at angled parking on Main from Jackson to the railroad crossing and in the 100 blocks of West Marion, East Franklin and East High streets. There are 139 spaces in the area, but angled parking would increase the number to 208, or by 48 percent. “This is an added incentive to anyone considering locating in the downtown area and much relief to those already there. The malls offered angled and opposed parking and downtown needs that advantage as well,” Moore said.
State of the City
Here are other highlights of Mayor Dick Moore's 2012 State of the City Address Wednesday night at the Lerner Theatre:
Ÿ City's cash balance at the end of 2011 was $91.3 million, a decrease of $4.1 million attributed to the completion of the Lerner.
Ÿ Of the $35 million property tax levy in 2011, only $27 million was collected. Of that, $6 million was due to tax credits. Moore said the loss will be higher in 2012.
Ÿ Moore said there were five business attraction and expansion projects in the city in 2011, leading to 329 new jobs and $16.9 million in real and personal property.
Ÿ The mayor credits the opening of the refurbished Lerner Theatre as a “definitive turning point in a public's perception regarding the health of our community ...”
Ÿ The Elkhart Street Department used 15,000 tons of asphalt and 6,900 gallons of crack sealing oil in 2011. In addition, the city completed $7,000 worth of paid sidewalk orders. The department also picked up more than 49,000 cubic yards of leaves and collected 13,500 cubic yards of dirt and debris with street sweepers.
Ÿ Three tornado sirens were added in the city in 2011, for a total of 10 sirens. Two will be replaced this year.
Ÿ The city's buildings and grounds department maintains more than 75 properties, including the Lerner, Moore said.
Ÿ The mayor said robberies were down 23 percent in the city in 2011; burglaries down 2 percent; and rapes were down 28 percent.
Ÿ The central garage maintains more than 700 pieces equipment for city departments. The garage also includes two charging stations for the city's two Think City vehicles.
Ÿ The cemetery department helped with 315 burials and entombments in 2011 at the city's three cemeteries.
Ÿ Moore is beginning his 37th year of service in municipal government, having served as mayor, street commissioner,and fire chief. “One of the most important lessons I have learned through those years of service is that I must listen to the people,” he said. “I will continue to listen as promised and when the community tells us they are not lined up with our ideas, we will take note.”
Full text of the speech
2012 State of the City Address