Council reviews Columbus Street plaza project

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By Andrea Cordle

Southwest Editor

There has been a lot of talk about extending Columbus Street and adding a plaza, but will that become a reality?

At the Nov. 6 meeting, Roby Schottke, council president, said city leaders need to decide if they want to move forward with this project.

“We need to conceptually accept the idea,” Schottke said.

Mike Keller, with the engineering firm EMH&T, presented an updated plan to council. He said the street extension would enhance connectivity between the Town Center and Beulah Park and the plaza would create additional public gathering space. He also said the project could lead to more economic development.

Keller presented four options to council that have various design aspects and costs.

The first option is to just extend Columbus Street, with no public plaza. This option would cost approximately $6.2 million. The second option is the roadway extension, with a plaza at the estimated cost of $8.3 million.  The third option includes the roadway extension, the plaza and surface parking. This option would add more than 100 parking spaces to the Town Center. This plan is estimated at $12 million. The fourth option extends Columbus Street, adds a public plaza and includes a two-story parking structure. This plan would create nearly 200 additional parking spaces in the area and would cost approximately $15 million.

All the options include land acquisitions and relocating the railroad crossing.

Keller said he is reviewing land acquisition and utilities needed to extend Columbus Street. He also said he has submitted a preliminary crossing plan to Indiana-Ohio Railway (formerly Genessee-Wyoming).

“We are trying to get the plans in place,” said Keller. “We need to sit down with the city’s administration and work on the project.”

Resident Roger Burket said he is concerned about the city taking ownership of property for the project.

“You assume property owners want to sell,” he said to the council members.

Schottke said there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the plans, as no formal action has been taken by council.

“We are putting the cart before the horse,” Schottke said.

Councilman Steve Bennett said council members had to look at the greater good.

Council members agreed that they need to formally accept this plan, even if it is just a conceptual idea, but they gave no date for that discussion.

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