By Nicole Davis
Where should Southport’s “main street” be located? What should the “town center” look like? The Southport Redevelopment Commission discussed that and more at a town hall meeting July 8, educating citizens about the history of the RDC, current projects and ideas for a new and improved redevelopment plan.
RDC President Duane Langreck shared how when the Southport RDC was founded in 2011, residents were concerned not only about the many vacant, abandoned lots, but also the potential quality of businesses which might open in those spaces. The RDC completed its first redevelopment plan in 2012, implementing mixed-use design standards – meaning a mix of commercial, public and private use – and a basic vision for what Southport could become.
“When we talked about the RDC, we always talked about housing, retail and restaurants,” Langreck said. “It didn’t matter which one was first, they would just all come one after another and create a vibrant area.”
Many changes have taken place since the RDC formed, including Sophia’s Bridal purchasing and renovating the formerly vacant post office building and Gerdt Furniture closing its retail store, that building later purchased and renovated by Randy Faulkner & Associates for the use of Renaissance Electronics, bringing in 300 employees to the city. The RDC purchased the former lumberyard, a space for which they are currently working on obtaining new retail and apartments.
The redevelopment plan came into discussion again this year, and the decision was made to create a new, more detailed plan with a true direction for Southport development.
“The old plan didn’t have as much of a vision,” said Jonah Butler, an RDC intern who is taking on the task of creating this new plan for the RDC as part of his master’s thesis with Ball State University. “I was first brought on to just update that: add figures in, new maps. The more we got into it, the more (it grew) and look where we are: a whole new vision.”
The initial goal remains the same: to have village-mix use design, community-friendly businesses and adequate community assets. With the Red Line rapid transit system having a stop at Southport, the new plan will include transit-oriented development. It will also include a vision for where the city’s business district, or town center, should begin, what type of signifier could be implemented to signify that a visitor is in Southport’s business district.
“It’s all about being heterogeneous, mixed, lively but not in (contradiction) of each other,” Butler said.
Area residents who would like to share their ideas or be kept up to date on planning may email Butler at email@example.com.