While work continues on the Evansville’s still-evolving downtown master plan, members of the Redevelopment Commission heard some of the top recommendations for the area’s future. Among the recommendations was a proposed development to turn downtown’s Main Street Park, which some have coined the “AstroTurf Park,” into a town square in hopes of continuing to spur activity in the area.
At Tuesday morning’s meeting of the Redevelopment Commission, Brad Segal, the president of Progressive Urban Management Associates, updated city leaders on the progress of the downtown master plan. In conjunction with Evansville-based Hafer Associates, Segal’s firm was awarded the downtown master plan contract late last year.
As part of his progress report, Segal told the Redevelopment Commission that the privately-owned park located at Fourth and Main Streets has a lot of potential to become a town square. The recommendation was among the master plan’s top recommendations.
Such a space, he said, could become a focal point downtown for day-to-day activities year round.
“Imagine a place where there is something going on every day. There are events, music and picnicking in the summer,” Segal said. “In the winter, [there could be] an ice skating rink, the community Christmas tree, a whole variety of things.”
Kelley Coures, the executive director of the Department of Metropolitan Development, said the town square proposal would fit perfectly in downtown’s portfolio of amenities.
“The target would be to have several things that we could do right away like acquiring the 4th Street Park. We know the owner, as he put it, has some fatigue in maintaining that park,” Coures said. “When the Ford Center has an event, the Old National Events Plaza has an event, the Victory Theater has an event, you’re going to see that concentration of people downtown that hasn’t been here for the last 15 or 20 years or so. I think you’re going to see a lot of activity that heretofore that Evansville has missed out on downtown.”
The park is mostly owned by Old National Bank. Edwina Kempf owns approximately 25% of the park property, according to the County Assessor’s Office.
Nathan Swanson, who lives in a downtown loft, frequents the park on a regular basis. His English bulldog, Fenway, is a frequent visitor as well. Swanson, who moved downtown about a year ago after a stint in the county’s northern suburbs, said the town square proposal will further increase the activity and growth downtown.
“I am 100 percent onboard with creating a sense of community. Anything the city can do to create that sense of community is not going to do anything but help,” Swanson said. “It’s been amazing what they’ve done with Main Street. We love seeing the crowds down here with the car shows and the wine festival. I can’t see it doing anything but helping all that.”
The town square proposal remains just a recommendation. The master plan is expected to be complete by mid-April.