DALEVILLE — About 50 Daleville residents crowded into the high school cafeteria Thursday night to hear a pitch that could change the future of the town.
The Town Council recently asked a planning team to come up with a proposal to revitalize the downtown section of Daleville. What used to be the hub of the town, the intersection of Indiana 32 and Walnut Street, is now mostly abandoned as most of the jobs have moved to the Indiana 67 corridor near Interstate 69.
Town Council President Tom Roberts said when they had a meeting in May to discuss the future of the town, the residents overwhelmingly wanted them to focus on the downtown area and bring a sense of life back to the area.
Cecil Penland, the lead designer on the project, gave a presentation on what downtown Daleville could look like in 15 to 20 years with the right decisions and enough money. He showed drawings for upgraded buildings on Walnut Street and an improved downtown plaza with stores and apartment-style housing. He also suggested a new downtown park and walking trails to tie everything together.
“You have a lot of good elements here in Daleville,” Penland said. “But you need a way to connect everything. Trails and parks are a great way to attract people to your town.”
Perhaps the most-talked about addition was the possibility of a marina in Daleville if the Mounds Lake project becomes a reality. Although almost no one will be displaced if the lake happens, the water would come right up to the edge of the town. Penland said the town should take full advantage of that if the project goes through.
“That lake would be a game-changer for your community,” Penland said. “Water is a huge attraction for people, businesses and tourism.”
It won’t be easy to get Daleville back on track though, Scott Burgins, project manager for Strategic Development Group, said.
Burgins pointed out it took a while for the downtown to decline and it would take some time, combined with a lot of investment from the community and the town’s leaders, to bring the economy back up to par.
“With any project like this the public investment needs to come before the private investment follows, and that can be hard to do,” he said. “But you can’t just wait for something to happen.”
Roberts admitted the cost of a project the scale of this one would be very high and said at this stage of the planning residents should just assume the town has the money for it.
“We don’t want roadblocks being thrown up at this point in the process,” he said.
The final report from Penland isn’t even finished yet but he said it would be soon and then made available on the town’s website.
Most of the residents at the meeting agreed something had to be done to try and fix the downtown area, even if it meant taking a chance and investing in the plans.
Ben Fisher, who grew up in Daleville, pointed to his young daughter as a reason to move forward with this.
“We’re not going anywhere, she’s going to grow up here,” he said. “We need to make sure this is a town she can be proud of.”
Mike Murphy said along with the commercial buildings, he would like to see an increase in different types of housing.
“We’ve got more jobs in Daleville than people living here,” he said. “I kept thinking eventually they’d start living here but there’s nowhere nice for them to live.”
Penland added that in addition to the downtown revitalization, the group would also look at making a better connection between Indiana 67 and Indiana 32.
The Town Council had the meeting to get as much feedback from the public as possible. Once the final report is completed, the council will decide the next step.
Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.