When Anderson was first formed, the downtown corridor along Meridian Street was the community’s central business district.

Retail stores lined the streets, interspersed with movie theaters and restaurants. Beginning in the 1970s, the retail district began moving to Scatterfield Road, a trend that continues today.

The central business district today is home to government offices, the legal community and financial institutions, but little retail and restaurant activity.

As part of the city’s comprehensive plan, residents wanted to see a greater variety of retail and entertainment venues in the downtown area with an improved appearance.

The plan calls for turning downtown into a diverse activity center.

One step in that direction was the Town Center Plaza at 12th and Meridian streets. The park adds to the available green space offered by Citizens Plaza at Ninth and Meridian streets.

There is already a plan in place for a restaurant and brew pub on the Town Center Plaza. The sale of the building to an Indianapolis family is expected by the end of the year.

Lori Sylvester, coordinator for the local AIMS (Anderson Indiana Main Street) program, said the organization was formed to promote the downtown through festivals and working with businesses.

“We have done studies and people want to see more band concerts in the evenings and on weekends,” she said. “We already do three concerts on Fridays in June, July and August and the committee wants to do a lot more.”

Sylvester said people also want to see a farmer’s market in the downtown area.

“There is a great chance for a farmer’s market to happen,” she said. “It just takes a group to coordinate the event and for vendors to participate.”

Sylvester said a farmer’s market used to take place at the United Auto Workers Local 663 union hall at 29th Street and Madison Avenue.

“The Town Center Plaza would be a good location because there are restrooms available,” she said.

Sylvester said the AIMS committee organized several festivals, including the Winter Fest the past three years.

“People want to see more themed festivals in the future,” she said. “These can be done in conjunction with the Paramount and State theaters.”

Katherine Goar, director of community development and long-range planning, said it would be logical for the city to develop a separate plan for the downtown.

“Indianapolis develops separate master plans for three-block-radius areas and it has been successful,” she said.

Goar said the downtown has the potential to have a unique business atmosphere that could be a mix of specialty retail outlets.

“A lot of niche businesses are already taking place,” Goar said. “We want to help them complement each other.”

Mayor Kevin Smith said the city is looking to develop a corridor from Scatterfield Road into downtown along Cincinnati and Ohio avenues and from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“We want to make it easy for visitors to get to the downtown,” Smith said. “Once they get here, we have created more than 100 parking spaces in the downtown.”

Goar said improvements are needed to streets, sidewalks and lighting to make the area more pedestrian friendly.

“The residential areas have a lot to do with the downtown,” she said. “We want to encourage the redevelopment of moderately priced homes in the historic districts.”

The city is in the process of having the Meridian Street corridor from 10th to 14th streets placed on the National Register of Historic Places to encourage investment in properties that were built before 1982.

Goar said the city also has a designated river-front district that will provide tax incentives for private investment.

The plan also calls for public art in the downtown area to reflect a commitment to the arts and culture. Currently the “Three Graces” fountain is a focal point in the Town Center Plaza, and the Crystal Arch sits in front of the Anderson City Building.

In other communities, like Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Holland, Mich., sculptures have been placed throughout the downtown area with maps outlining walking tours available with a description of the artwork.

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