In 2002, under the rule of then Warsaw Mayor Ernie Wiggins, a committee of 10 business men and women worked with economic enhancement consultants HyettPalma to create an action plan for downtown Warsaw. The agenda was to look at ways to market a “rebirth of downtown Warsaw.”
Even though the plan is now over a decade old, current mayor Joe Thallemer has identified some specific points that he believes are not only ways to sustain and encourage more livability downtown, but also encourage more pedestrian friendly businesses. He believes that examining improvements along Buffalo Street would tie well with the city’s fairly recent bicycle friendly initiative that is calling for the creation of 87 miles of bike/pedestrian paths. (See related)
In moving forward with an idea mentioned both in the 2002 study and in a Ball State charrette held over the summer, the city is looking to better link the downtown area with Central Park via Buffalo Street. The city has already acquired the old Indiana American Water property at the corner of Buffalo and Canal streets with plans to demolish it in early 2014, and it currently owns two additional residential properties, one at 329 N. Buffalo St., which was acquired just last week.
The future vision is to use Buffalo Street as a boulevard where a mix of urban style housing, retail shops and restaurants would co-exist and tie into the park.
While city officials are not actively pursuing purchasing additional properties along Buffalo Street, Thallemer said the city would work with a developer and continues to look at possibilities that would encourage the downtown link to Central Park. Among the possibilities the city has examined are urban housing units, much like those built along the River Race in South Bend by Matthews LLC.
Thallemer complimented the style and craftsmanship of the Matthews LLC units and said similar type housing on Buffalo Street would likely attract young professionals and early retirees who want to reside close to downtown.
Other possibilities for the Buffalo Street corridor would be retail shops, restaurants and maybe even some type of plaza where the boat launch is currently located. Although the former Indiana American Water property was once looked at for the new city hall – as noted in the above artist’s rendering – Thallemer said it could be considered for other uses, including a more upscale restaurant or even the expansion of Central Park.
“We’re not aggressively pursuing properties (on Buffalo Street)” the mayor insisted, “but with the acquisition of the Indiana American Water property and the demolition of that, that will stimulate some interest.”