News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 29, 2014

Ideas flowing like a River

Project moves ahead on reconnecting downtown with the Wabash

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A draft plan of a project called Turn to the River made its debut Tuesday in downtown Terre Haute.

The plan to reconnect the downtown with the Wabash River through public art and design is now up for public comment.

“We had more than 100 participants at the input meetings, and nearly 300 survey responses,” said Jennifer Hale, a project partner with J3 Concepts. “We are still taking public comment.”

The plan focuses on:

• Fairbanks Park on the east bank of the river

• The city-county government campus one block from the river which includes the county courthouse, city hall and county jail

• The river itself and any spaces connecting the downtown district with the river.

Public comment has helped shape the plan, Hale said, illustrating that a suggestion to place a pedestrian bridge across the river somewhere between Interstate 70 and the Ohio/Cherry street bridges has gained traction.

“There are already pedestrian crossings on the traffic bridge,” Hale said, “so we are now looking at putting another pedestrian-only bridge south of there, so that people from the Farrington Grove area, for instance, can go across the river midway between I-70 and the existing bridges. We can create a safe pedestrian walkway across the river to the Wabashiki area.”

Cooperation from local government has also been well-received, she said. The city is a financial partner in the project, and Mayor Duke Bennett has put some planned city hall improvement projects on hold for now to see how the final plan comes out. The city parks department is also delaying changes in the Fairbanks Park area to see how the plan will fit with needed projects.

Mary Kramer, executive director of Art Spaces, said the presentation of the plan draft is the culmination of about 18 months of hard work.

“We are really excited to get this plan rolled out and get comment from people in the community,” she said.

“All of the input from the downtown walking tours and the meetings is in the plan.”

She emphasized that public comment is still welcome, with the plan to be firmed up in June and July.

Kay Farmer, a community resident involved in the project, said she has been impressed with the level of input from local people.

“I kind of joke that I’m on the education committee, but I’m the one being educated,” Farmer said. “I’ve lived in Terre Haute for a number of years, and I’ve never seen such excitement and cooperation and hope about a project. This is going to happen.”

Connecting the downtown to the river has long been on the mind of city leaders.

Charlie Williams of the Riverscape group, recalled that the Downtown Terre Haute organization discussed connecting the governmental campus with the downtown years ago. The high-traffic Third Street/U.S. 41 corridor makes pedestrian crossing a risky undertaking.

How to get pedestrians across Third Street is an issue, he said, noting that many of the county courthouse employees prefer to drive somewhere to lunch rather than walk across the busy highway toward downtown eateries.

J3 Concepts partner Jason Saavedra said he looks forward to the coming days as people go online to add to the comments already coming in on the website.

“It’s a cool tool that people can use to digest the plan and its ideas, and to have input,” Saavedra said.

The draft of Turn to the River can be found at through May.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.