PLANNING PROCESS: Greenfield celebrates successes while starting work on 2025 comp plan

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The new stage at Depot Street Park stands tall on the east end of the park, which sits between Depot Street and the Pennsy Trail in downtown Greenfield.

GREENFIELD — Longtime residents know the past 10 years have been transformative for the City of Greenfield, especially in the downtown historic district.

City planner Joanie Fitzwater said that was all part of the plan.

She’s amazed at how many goals outlined in the city’s 2015 comprehensive plan were accomplished in less than 10 years, like the creation of a downtown park and concert venue, infrastructure improvements and the revival of the downtown retail district.

“I am really overwhelmed by how well this plan was received and how it was perfect timing for the city of Greenfield to make these kinds of improvements. The community was ready,” she said.

A city’s comprehensive plan outlines the plans for growth into the future, typically over a 20-year span. Cities and towns are advised to update their plans every 10 years to be eligible for state and federal funding.

Greenfield’s planning and engineering departments met May 19 to kick off drafting the city’s next 20-year plan, which is slated to be completed by the end of 2024. Local civic and business leaders have been invited to help in the lengthy process, which will help guide future growth and development

“If you lay out the plan and stick to it you’re going to have great things happen for your city, and we have,” said Mayor Chuck Fewell, who took over the office in 2013.

Fitzwater credits Fewell and Greenfield’s city council members for having the vision and fortitude to see the 2015 plan through.

“We got most of our goals for a 20-year period accomplished in 10 years,” she said.

The crown jewel among them was earning the Stellar Communities designation in 2018 from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, which generated millions of dollars in funding to Greenfield and its partner communities of Fortville and Hancock County.

With those funds Greenfield was able to bring many of its big-ticket goals into fruition, like the establishment of Depot Street Park and the redevelopment of an historic grain elevator, which was transformed into The Depot restaurant in 2021.

While the big enhancements may take center stage, Fitzwater said a number of smaller improvements have also been completed, like extensive sidewalk repairs and moving some power lines underground.

Her big goal for the 2024 comp plan will be to create an official arts and cultural district in downtown Greenfield, a designation offered by the Indiana Arts Commission to communities with a thriving arts and cultural scene.

The state’s current cultural districts include Bloomington, Carmel, Columbus, Fishers, Fort Wayne, Jeffersonville, Lafayette, Madison, Nashville, Noblesville, Terre Haute and Wabash.

“If we get that designation it would help draw tourists to our community, because we’d then have the power of the state promoting Greenfield as a cultural center to visit,” said Fitzwater, who said the designation also would open the door to additional grants.

The fact Greenfield has its own art gallery, arts council and numerous large-scale murals already makes Greenfield an artsy city, she said. The fact it is also home to the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home & Museum, and will soon be home to the future Riley Literary Trail, goes a long way in making the city a cultural district as well.

“We already have a very creative base here. We just need to collaborate with community partners to get through the designation process,” said Fitzwater.

The proposed cultural district would be focused in downtown Greenfield, where a number of cultural events like the Pennsy Trail Art Fair, Chalk Fest and outdoor concerts are held.

Fewell refers to the downtown area as the heart of the city, a place where the community gathers to shop, dine and share in community events.

In 2013, the city created a Downtown Revitalization Plan that has served as the playbook for many of the transformations that have taken place over the past decade.

Fitzwater successfully pursued a grant to hire a consultant to devise the detailed plan, which has resulted in transforming the once sleepy downtown into a thriving commercial center.

One of the goals was to attract a bar or brewery to serve as a commercial anchor in downtown Greenfield, which Fitzwater said was accomplished when Wooden Bear Brewing Co. opened at 21 W. North St. in 2014.

That opened the door for ongoing economic development, she said, with a number of restaurants, shops, salons and other businesses opening up downtown throughout the years.

Another big component of the downtown plan was enlarging the footprint of downtown Greenfield beyond the main intersection of State and Main, creating the Living Alley to connect to North Street and developing a new park and commercial properties along Depot Street on the southwest corner of town.

The downtown was also transformed thanks to a Main Street Revitalization Grant which revitalized the faces of a number of historic downtown buildings.

Fitzwater said downtown Greenfield will continue to be a major focus in the upcoming 2025 comprehensive plan, building on the momentum of what’s been accomplished in recent years.

“One thing that we did not get accomplished yet is adding a downtown housing project. This could be part of a mixed use building with commercial on the first floor, and would be a really great leap in our revitalization efforts,” she said. “The mayor was proactive in seeking the right housing project, but it has not come together as of yet.”