Major Square makeover gets premier showing

From Local Sources

JASPER — Brick streets and sidewalks, corner nooks with seating and lighted alleyways are part of the proposed redesign of Courthouse Square.

That redesign was revealed during a three-hour open house Tuesday evening.

“Everything is not totally finalized yet. I’d say we’re 90 percent done with the design,” said John Bell, president of the Jasper Redevelopment Commission. “But some minor tweaks can still be done because (the project is) not in the construction bid drawing phase yet.”

More than 50 people attended Tuesday’s open house to look at design boards, brick examples and materials that could be used for seating nooks as well as to talk to designers about the proposed plan.

The street surrounding the county courthouse, named Courthouse Square, will be reduced to 26 feet wide and made more into a square shape.

“This will force traffic to go slower as they round the corner,” Pete Andriot explained, “thus forcing drivers to be more careful as they drive around the Square.” Andriot is principal of Rundell Ernstberger Associates, the Indianapolis firm that created the design.

The Square and streets feeding into the Square will be made of brick instead of the asphalt that is currently there. Those side streets — Main Street and Sixth Street — will be reduced to 24 feet. Parallel parking will replace the angled parking on the streets. And the streets’ intersection with Courthouse Square will be at an elevation, with the Square being slightly higher than the streets.

The eliminated street space will be incorporated into the pedestrian-traveled areas around the Square. The sidewalk will be widened to 14 feet. A 6-foot strip of brick will separate the sidewalk from the parking spaces. That strip will have greenery and small structures that will act as a barrier between the sidewalk and street. The bricks of the street and sidewalk will be different colors, Andriot said.

On the west side of Main Street, the sidewalk would be 6 feet, and a 10-foot multi-use path would be included. There would be no median in the middle of the street.

“We’ve made that very clear,” Bell said. “Jasper does not want a median.”

The brick would extend down each street and include the intersections of Sixth and Newton streets, Main and Fifth streets, Sixth and Jackson streets, and Main and Seventh streets.

Congregating areas, called nodes on the design, will be placed in each corner of the Square as well as at each corner of the county courthouse site. All but one of the eight nodes will have seating. The northeast node, the one closest to Jasper City Hall will be a small street-level stage that could be used for public events. The flagpoles and time capsule at that corner will remain in the area, Andriot said. The southwest node in front of the Astra Theatre would incorporate a reddish brick leading to the theater to resemble a red carpet, he said.

The alleyways at the southwest and southeast corners would be lighted to encourage pedestrian traffic. But the lighting would be incorporated into the ground instead of above walkers’ heads. “We want to encourage pedestrians to use the alleyways more,” Andriot said, “but we didn’t want to add more overhead clutter.”

A public restroom could be placed on open space at City Hall’s parking lot. It is shown on the proposed design, but the details for making that happen are still under discussion, Andriot said.

Bell said that Rundell will come to the redevelopment commission’s Monday, June 6, meeting with its contract for creating the finalized drawing and bid construction package and schedule for completing the Square upgrades.

“We will decide if we want to bring this to the city council for (council members) to appropriate funds for the contract,” Bell said.

Rundell has been working on the design since March with input from a  committee of local people representing the city, merchants and citizens. The design incorporates some of the ideas proposed in the city’s downtown/riverfront plan, which was finalized in December 2013 and incorporated into the city’s overall master plan.

The city hopes to get information in place in time to apply for $1 million in grant funding from the state, which has a deadline of early July. The Indiana General Assembly created the matching grant program this past session. The program will be available for three years, with the first round of funding, $184 million, to be given out this year. The grant is a dollar-for-dollar match, and applications for the funding are due by July 3. The city is planning to use $1 million of state local option income tax surplus funding the state is sending back to the city, another decision made by the General Assembly this past session.

As a part of the Courthouse Square project, the city has asked Dubois County officials to use $500,000 of the local option income tax funding it is receiving from the state on the project and to apply for a $500,000 match.

Comments about the project can also be left on the website dedicated to the project. People can also attend the next redevelopment commission meeting, which is scheduled for 8 a.m. Monday, June 6, at City Hall, 610 Main St.

View the complete presentation online: