Town Planning Administrator, Council President Talk Three Transformative Projects On the Horizon
Photography Provided by Brian Brosmer & Town of Fortville
Big changes are coming to Fortville, and the future looks bright for the town.
Three main projects that have been in the works for several years are closer to becoming a reality for Fortville thanks to federal grants that will help fund the projects. The projects include pedestrian upgrades to Michigan Street, multiple renovations to Main Street, including new pavement, parking, landscaping, a revamp of the sidewalks, crosswalks and lighting and last, but not least, a trail connecting Fortville to the Mt. Vernon School District.
According to Town of Fortville Planning Administrator Adam Zaklikowski, latest estimates for all three projects total just under $8.8M with Fortville aiming for $9M total in federal grants from the Madison County Council of Governments (MCOG), which is the metropolitan planning organization that represents Fortville.
So far, Fortville has collected around $1.2M through the federal funds awarded. Zaklikowski stressed that the money does not come all at once. Instead, “it comes in chunks.”
“It is a federal split, local match,” Zaklikowski says. “What that means is [MCOG] picks up 80 percent of the costs and we pick up the other 20 percent.”
Much of the $1.2M that Fortville has already collected has gone straight into funding their first project — the Michigan Street upgrades. The street is the main east-west thoroughfare in town and has long needed new crosswalks, lighting, a flashing pedestrian crosswalk sign and more. This phase of Fortville’s future is the only project that is already underway, and the town is aiming for those renovations to be completed by the fall. The total cost of the Michigan Street project is about $568,000.
Main Street has always been a popular part of Fortville’s past and present. That project will involve redoing the infrastructure on Main Street from Church Street to Noel. Renovations will include new pavement, maintaining diagonal parking, street trees, landscaping, “slightly wider sidewalks,” lighting and crosswalks.
The Main Street project will cost about $2.5M when all is said and done. Fortville plans for those renovations to start in October of 2019.
“Basically, we will be redoing that aging infrastructure on Main Street,” Zaklikowski says. “We will be working with and reaching out to all the business owners and property owners as we get closer to construction to try and alleviate any concerns they might have.”
Fortville recently had its first meeting with Main Street business owners in early September. Most owners say the meeting was a productive one and addressed questions they had, while also keeping everyone on the same page.
“Everyone likes the design, and it is really going to be gorgeous when the renovations are done,” says Libby Wyatt, owner of StoreHouse. “The biggest concern for most of us is the lack of parking. But the town has been great about answering our questions. They listen to our concerns. They’ve started these meetings now and will be continuing them into next year so everyone knows what is happening.”
“I believe these Main Street renovations will help us become a destination place,” adds The Gypsy Chicks Boutique owner Gina Kammerer. “Even more people will be coming to walk the street and enjoy downtown Fortville.”
The third, and final, project — the Mt. Vernon Trail — will be the most costly and biggest project of the three. The project will cost about $5.7M total and will be broken up into three phases.
The trail will be eight to 10-feet wide, detached from the roadway with a planting strip and will run on the west side of Maple Street (Fortville Pike) before crossing over at 200 West where it will continue along the east side of that road straight to the Mt. Vernon School Corporation complex and around Fortville Elementary.
“Right now, the Mt. Vernon trail project is going through environmental review,” Zaklikowski says. “But we have received overwhelming support for it. It will be a nice amenity for people to get out, bike and get some exercise. It will be a great physical connection between the school district and Fortville, too.”
The town hopes to begin work on the trail in March of 2020.
All three projects are, clearly, a large undertaking, but, with the federal aid, Zaklikowski says it is a win-win for Fortville and its residents.
“The advantage of these programs to the town and Fortville residents is that the town only has to pay 20 percent of the costs,” Zaklikowski says. “So we are basically getting an 80 percent discount on these improvements. The bottom line with these federal aid projects is it is an excellent way of leveraging limited town resources to bring in additional funds for these community improvements.”
So, what does this mean for Fortville residents as these projects are on the horizon?
“Some residents have asked, ‘Does this mean my taxes will go up?’ The answer is, no,” Zaklikowski says. “Taxes are not going up for these projects. We are very much trying to enhance the small-town feel that we have but also be pro-growth. We definitely will have council and public support with anything that happens. We don’t operate behind closed doors.”
The projects mark major steps in a direction the town has looked forward to going to for quite some time. In recent year’s Fortville has seen an increase in the restaurant and dining scene with local additions like Fox Gardin Kitchen & Ale, Taxman Fortville and, most recently, 305 Wine Garage.
Even more development and projects could be coming in the future.
Fortville is also filing a regional development plan for the Stellar Communities Program. The program awards a grant totaling just under $16M. The town filed its plan in September with hopes of becoming one of two finalists selected out of six regions in Indiana.
Town officials are excited for its three main projects to pick up speed and to see Fortville grow for many years to come.
“These are transformative projects for our downtown,” says Fortville Council President Michael Frischkorn. “All of this is about the residents and visitors that we have in our town and how we build upon the community we already have to make it even better. A small town is a great place because you can get involved if you really want to. It is exciting to be at the starting line with these projects for a community that I see, five, 10 years from now, will be even bigger and better.”
For more information and to stay up to date on all things Fortville, visit FortvilleIndiana.org.