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Downtown Kokomo selected for annual statewide award

10/05/2010
 

Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 5, 2010

Downtown Kokomo selected for annual statewide award

By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer

— Kokomo’s downtown development work received accolades at a statewide conference Monday, with the city’s selection as the 2010 Indiana Association of Cities and Towns Community Achievement Award.

Over the past year, Kokomo city officials, led by Mayor Greg Goodnight, have directed more than $1 million in downtown infrastructure improvements and a raft of new economic development incentives.

City officials claim those initiatives have resulted in more than a dozen small businesses locating downtown, from Da Roux House Cajun restaurant to the Rhum Academy of Music.

Monday, a panel of nine judges agreed, making Kokomo the sole recipient of the award among Indiana cities of 20,000 or more residents.

“I think it makes a statement that even during tough times, we can do things as a community and show the rest of the state what kind of a place we are,” Goodnight said.

Most noticeably, the city reconfigured 44 downtown corners by demolishing the old corners and installing new concrete pedestrian curb ramps and planting beds.

The flowers, including some 340 flower baskets taken down over the weekend, will be fading as winter approaches, but the city’s incentives for new businesses will remain available.

Over the past two years, the city has used federal funds to offer marketing and facade improvement loans to small businesses. And since the beginning of the year, more than a dozen new businesses have opened or relocated to downtown Kokomo.

State and federal funds were used to resurface downtown streets, and to turn Sycamore and Walnut streets into two-way thoroughfares.

Hundreds of parking meters have been removed, 11 traffic signals have been replaced by stop signs, and decorative street signs have also been installed.

IACT officials had this to say in a statement accompanying Kokomo’s award.

“Two years ago, Downtown Kokomo was dotted with vacant buildings. Parking meters, one-way streets and traffic signals discouraged shoppers and visitors. The city realized that something had to change ... As a result of these improvements, multiple downtown incentive programs and low-interest loans, Kokomo’s small-business community has responded in a big way.”

“I still don’t think downtown has reached its full potential, and I think the next step is making it more connected,” Goodnight said. “We need connectivity for our main corridors and thoroughfares, not just downtown, but through the whole city, and that’s what we’re going to focus on over the next year.

“I think it starts with downtown, but it can’t end there,” the mayor added.

• Scott Smith is a Kokomo Tribune staff writer. He may be reached at 765-454-8569 or via e-mail at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com