Yorktown wants to revitalize downtown with housing, stores, trails

Tax increment financing can pay for a new downtown Yorktown

By Rick Yencer

YORKTOWN, INDIANA (NEWS) -  A new downtown with unique stores, loft housing on Canal Street and a trail connecting community parks are part of a new plan to revitalize old Yorktown. 

Consultant Doyle Hyett came up with a vision for the community, a way to do it and money for it in a plan much like Downtown Indiana, the road map of Indiana Cities and Towns Association to build better communities.

 Less than 100 people showed up at a gathering in Yorktown United Methodist Church Tuesday where Hyett stood on the pulpit and preached the good of Yorktown along with ways to bring people and money to the downtown that is now mostly empty buildings and a few places to eat and drink.

The Yorktown Town Council undertook the plan after concerned some property owners left downtown buildings vacant and refused to help with any redevelopment. Millions of dollars were spent in recent years for a new downtown streetscape, although some businesses left construction.

Hyett suggested government take action against vacant property owners, either through penalties and eminent domain to take property for future development. 

Council President Bob Ratchford already has taken steps to punish property owners with a measure that would levy fines for vacant storefronts. Council  takes final action on that measure next Tuesday.

 And eminent domain requires government to define an intended use of the property before seizing property through court.

Hyett offered an array of uses like restaurants, retail shops, specialty food places and other arts and culture, That mix would attract more people and development.

"Downtown's old buildings must be preserved both to make the downtown unique and remind us of who came before," said Hyett in the plan.

The plan also proposed a facade program, much like downtown Muncie, to fix up old buildings and support future development.

The downtown could be more pedestrian friendly by having bike trails and connecting Morrow's Meadow and Lion's Park.

Hyett also suggested loft housing along Canal Street where older homes are located. He thought the new development, with a view of Morrow's Meadow, would attract younger professionals that would want to live near White River.

The TIF district that Yorktown uses for redevelopment could fund new commercial and housing, Hyett said, besides government taking steps to secure other state and federal grants.

Actually, Yorktown government has more than a $6 million cash balance and has done little during the last two years to redevelop downtown or encourage other new business to the community or the Park One industrial site on Interstate 69.

Ratchford and other council members offered no comment about the plan after its presentation.  He faces re-election this year, along with fellow council members Rich Lee, Lon Fox, and Dan Flanagan.

The council meets again on Tuesday and so does the town';s chamber of commerce to discuss the plan and its implementation.


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