ELKHART — Elkhart city leaders broke ground on Thursday to start construction on a multi-million dollar project that they believe will be instrumental in revitalizing the downtown area.
About 50 people, including community and construction leaders, gathered Thursday morning at the site of the River District Streetscape Project, on Jackson Boulevard and Elkhart Avenue, for a groundbreaking celebration.
The River District is a 105-acre downtown peninsula bounded by the St. Joseph River, Elkhart River, Main Street and Prairie and Johnson Streets. The project, aimed to provide a live-work-play space, is expected to surge an urban vision with economic energy into expanding Elkhart’s downtown to match the trends of other thriving urban environments, according to city officials.
Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese, in previous reports said a recent market analysis found that there are approximately 28,000 commuters that work in Elkhart, but reside elsewhere. But he said he believes the River District project is going to be a “game-changer” for the city.
“We have a very unique opportunity to invent Elkhart and we will benefit from this reorganization and reinvention for decades,” he said.
The project is budgeted at $30 million and consists of a completely reconstructed streetscape, from sidewalk to sidewalk, including a new divided boulevard on Jackson, new and buried utilities, on-street parking, bicycle paths, street lighting, signals and landscaping.
Officials say the project will complement new and exciting investments and private development already taking place in the area, including the Elkhart Health Fitness and Aquatic Center and Stonewater at the Riverwalk.
The project will be constructed in two phases, with anticipated completion at the end of 2018.