The Herald Bulletin

May 21, 2013

AHS business class shares downtown vision with city leaders

Students propose ‘Anderson City Square’

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Mounds Mall would have to be demolished if Mounds Lake Reservoir ever becomes a reality.

And Anderson High School business teacher Debra Berry’s marketing class has an idea about where it might relocate.

Downtown Anderson.

Tuesday, Berry’s class briefed top city officials, including Mayor Kevin Smith, on its plan to create Anderson City Square, an open-air mall they propose developing between Ninth and 14th streets, and from Jackson to Main streets.

The goal would be to revitalize downtown by making it a destination for food, entertainment and shopping, class members said.

“In years past, downtown Anderson was a place people wanted to go to,” said 18-year-old senior Destiny Andrews, but not so much these days because of all the dilapidated and vacant buildings.

Berry said she was impressed somebody was trying to do something out of the box and her students became “fired up” when details of the proposed reservoir first emerged in March.

After deciding to tackle the project, students formed committees to handle the tasks that needed to be addressed. They ranged from looking at downtown traffic patterns, an inventory of buildings, conducting an informal survey and assembling presentation materials.

“It was really supposed to be a class project, but we took to the extreme,” Andrews said.

Esther Mishler, also an 18-year-old senior, said class members took lots of notes on a tour of downtown. Many had driven through at one time or another, but few ever really had the opportunity to stop and see what it’s really like.

She was particularly impressed by many of the “cool and great facades” on many of the buildings.

Where some see urban blight, members of the class, like 16-year-old sophomore Chloe Contos, sees opportunity.

“There are so many opportunities where they could put stores to make it fun to be downtown,” she said.

Hamilton Smith, son of the mayor, said the mix of stores at Anderson City Square is important for drawing shoppers back downtown.

The choices would have to be different from what’s found at Hamilton Square in Noblesville, or Castleton and Keystone at the Crossing in Marion County. “We wanted some unique stores,” he said.

Among the proposals are Carson’s (a holdover from Mounds), Nirvana, MCL Cafeteria, Five Guys, American Eagle, Nordstrom and J.C. Penney.

Kevin Smith said Tuesday’s presentation presented some wonderful insights from a new generation of Anderson residents.

“They are looking at their surroundings and making some assessments,” the mayor said. “I really did like their focus on downtown. Downtown is the heart, or core, of any community, so I found their analysis refreshing.”

Members of the class hope to make a presentation to the Anderson City Council at its meeting next month.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.