GREENFIELD — A project to dress up the main gateway into Greenfield is expected to start as soon as summer, officials say.
City officials plan to purchase trees and landscaping, as well as decorative posts, to enhance the exit off Interstate 70 into Greenfield, saying now, the most-traveled entrance into the community is uninviting to visitors.
Dressing up a main gateway into the city — more than 7,500 cars travel on the I-70 exit ramps in Greenfield daily, according to Indiana Department of Transportation traffic counts — should benefit economic development and tourism, as it serves as visitors’ first impression of Greenfield, Mayor Chuck Fewell said.
The engineer’s office is now asking for cost estimates from firms interested in building the project. They hope to hire a company by the end of March, said city engineer Karla Vincent.
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Construction is currently slated to begin in July, with foliage being planted in October, Vincent said.
City leaders have mulled dressing up the area for years, even earmarking about $1.5 million of Tax Increment Finance funds — money that’s generated from businesses in the I-70 area for infrastructure improvements — for construction of the project.
One side of the interchange is flanked by Elanco’s sharply designed world headquarters, officials say, but the rest of the area lacks eye-catching features.
Furthermore, there’s no sign off I-70 immediately welcoming visitors to the area. The only “Welcome to Greenfield, Indiana” sign is posted at the first stop sign south of the interstate; but it sits off the west side of State Road 9 and is easy to miss, officials say.
Once a firm is hired, city officials will have a better idea of what their investment in the project will buy; they hope to put up decorative posts and install landscape, like flowering trees, to welcome visitors to the area, Vincent said.
Officials first unveiled two potential designs for the project in June 2015. At the time, they asked residents to weigh in on which proposal they liked best.
Both designs included greenery near the exit ramps and State Road 9 median; one design featured more modern details, like steel pillars along State Road 9 and a sign on the interstate welcoming visitors to Greenfield. The other consisted of more traditional features, like brick and limestone decorative posts, as well as decorative signs adorning the State Road 9 overpass.
When surveyed, many residents said they liked aspects of both designs, so the board of works sent the design firm, now called Hitchcock Design Group, back to the drawing board to create a design that combined the aspects residents liked from the original renderings.
Now, with a design in hand that incorporates features from each proposal, and construction companies submitting quotes for the project, officials are ready to move forward, said Vincent, whose office is spearheading the project.
Fewell hopes beautifying the area will make a better first impression on motorists, encouraging more passersby to stop in Greenfield to grab a bite to eat, shop at local retailers or stay overnight at one of the city’s hotels.
Greenfield has many great restaurants and shops to offer visitors, Fewell said, but now, drivers might easily pass by without ever stopping.
As city leaders, business owners and residents work to revitalize the downtown area, they say it’s more important than ever to encourage travelers to stop in Greenfield.
Fewell said he can’t think of a better way to invest some of the funding set aside for encouraging economic development in the I-70 area.
“We hope this drives people to want to be here,” he said.