Group looks to revitalize Downtown Elkhart - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Group looks to revitalize Downtown Elkhart

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A group in Elkhart has come up with a comprehensive plan to bring more people downtown to live, work, and play. The group, who calls themselves SoMa for "Supporting our Main Assets", has been doing research on the revitalization for two years an now their plan is almost ready to go before the City Council.

The group has a lot of ideas to bring people downtown and it is summarized in a ten page document, that aims to bring a lot of change to Downtown Elkhart. A key piece of the whole plan though is just getting the word out about what Elkhart already has to offer.

Steve Gruber who lives in Elkhart said, "When I was a little kid Downtown was really vibrant."

Gruber grew up in Elkhart, then moved away, but eventually came back to a very different city.

"When I came back it was really in need of a lot," said Gruber.

He decided he wanted to invest in his community, so he bought property, fixed it up, and now rents apartments out.

Gruber said, "One of my tenants' yoga studio is right around the corner, another owns a gallery farther down Main street."

Getting more people downtown is exactly what a new SoMa plan aims to do.

Dallas Bergl, with the SoMa Study Group said, "People are coming both from our own city, as well as from the region, into our downtown to be entertained, to shop, to dine, and to live."

The new plan doesn't involve building a lot of new things to attract more people, but rather it's about revitalizing what already exists and marketing it, something Gruber and others agree is lacking.

"People don't know what we've got," said Gruber.

Danielle Moore, a Harrison Landing employee said, "I know we get our little brochures of what's coming, but honestly, I work here and I don't know of it until like the week before."  

Elkhart already hosts large events like the Jazz Fest and Art Walk, but they host a lot of smaller events too. Bergl said all events need to communicate and coordinate on the same calendar so there aren't conflicts.

"The idea really is to have something going on all the time in Downtown Elkhart," said Bergl.

This is an idea that Gruber and others in the city really want to see come to fruition.

"I just want to see the center of the city go back to being the center of the city again.  The heart of Elkhart to be the heart," said Gruber.

Marketing events is just one piece of the entire plan. The group also talked about offering incentives for businesses to move to downtown, developing improvements to the River Walk, improving building conditions and much more.

While this is in its planning stages, to become a reality it has to be approved by the Elkhart ReDevelopment Commission and the Elkhart Common Council. They'll have their say in the fall.

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