More details of downtown plans discussed

Last Updated on March 9, 2015 by cassnetwork

“It’s called change and this town needs change.”

Those were the words of downtown business owner Tom Partridge after listening to a presentation by a committee working on a master plan for downtown Logansport and the comments that followed during a question and answer period.

Partridge, who owns the Pear Tree Gallery and is also a member of Logan’s Landing’s board of directors, spoke of growing up in Logansport and the change he’s seen during his lifetime. He acknowledged that he “doesn’t always go along with” everything the downtown revitalization organization considers, and received a round of applause for his comments from many in the crowd of more than 200 who came out to hear about the proposed projects during a meeting tonight in the All Saints Fellowship Hall.

Last month, city officials announced that they plan to submit letters of intent this month to pursue Indiana’s Stellar Communities designation and the America’s Best Communities award.

In 2012, Logansport applied for the Stellar Communities designation, which has been awarded to a handful of communities including Wabash and Delphi.

Brent Mather, an architect who’s working with Logansport on the plans, said the Stellar designation “pre-approves” communities for moving ahead with plans that otherwise might take years to piece together the funds to complete. Grants must still be applied for, but, Mather said, the letter of intent for the Stellar designation “gets the state to recognize that you’re ready to have those conversations.”

Plans focus on the “Fourth Street Corridor” extending from High Street to Melbourne Avenue.

The focal point is a Civic Center for the Arts that would accommodate up to 750 people for larger events like weddings and conferences. The proposed location is the two bank parking lots between Market and Broadway on the west side of Fourth Street. A plaza facing Broadway would include a fountain and provide another gathering space.

Another piece of the project described in more detail during tonight’s meeting calls for a parking garage at the northwest corner of Fourth and Broadway. Planning director Arin Shaver says it would include up to 375 free parking spaces.

Last fall, the City of Logansport accepted a purchase agreement for the Farmer’s Market Lot at the southeast corner of Fourth and Market Streets. The agreement is contingent upon the developer securing state tax credits for senior housing. The developer’s Logansport project was not among those selected in a recent round of tax credits announced last week, but city officials say the developer can apply again for the next round in November. The committee working on the master plan wants to find additional space to house the Farmer’s Market.

Pam Leeman, who has described herself as an “arts advocate,” spoke of the achievements in Downtown Logansport over the last few years, including RECAP money that provided renovation for several buildings, including The People’s Winery, which was named best historic rehabilitation by Indiana Main Street in 2011. The same year, Leeman and Kathy Dingo, began actively pursuing the creation of an arts and design district in downtown Logansport. Three pocket parks have been created and numerous public art pieces are located throughout the district.

The part of the proposal that’s attracted the most attention from local residents includes the idea of moving what committee members describe as the city’s biggest piece of public art — the Cass County Carousel — to the downtown area.

Originally known as the Allen County Carousel, it was located in a Fort Wayne park, according to the Carousel’s website. In 1919, the park closed and the carousel was purchased by a Fort Wayne resident who shipped it to Logansport and placed it in Spencer Park. A few owners later, the carousel was moved to the busier Riverside Park in 1949.

From 1969 to 1972, the carousel sat idle in a closed-up building, until the Jaycees raised $21,000 to purchase it and the Cass County Carousel, Inc. non-profit was formed. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. In 1993, the community raised more than $700,000 for a complete restoration of the carousel’s animals, and the McHale Community Complex was built in 1995. According to its website, the Cass County Carousel is one of three complete stationary Dentzel Carousels in the country.

Last fall, FEMA revised the city’s floodplain designations and the downtown area was removed from the floodplain. Riverside Park is still designated as a floodplain, and as such, city officials say the carousel is unable to receive grants that would help with maintenance of the facility.

While no definite commitments have been made, Barry Baldwin, a Carousel board member, said the board’s members “unanimously agreed to entertain the idea.”

Those in favor of moving the carousel say it would give the landmark more exposure. Several people who volunteer or are former board members questioned whether it was in the carousel’s best interest, citing other amenities at the park, like the train, miniature golf and the new bridge connecting the park to the River Bluff Trail.

Letters of intent for the Stellar Designation and America’s Best Communities are due later this month.

“We all believe we’re already a stellar community,” Leeman said.