Category Archives: Economic Development

Kokomo Construction Roundup: June 2012

Downtown Kokomo

Kokomo-Howard County Public Library Outreach Building

Library Outreach Building (Ross Pierce 6/21/12)

This project has moved along pretty quickly and it seems as though the building exterior is finished as of June 19th, 2012, and only site improvements and construction internally is left for the building. The structure, at the southeast corner of Mulberry and Market Streets, was designed to house the bookmobile vehicles as well as the outreach and collection departments.

Senior Housing Development

Project Sign on Site (5/13/12)

As of the last downtown update, the site was cleared and is ready for the next stage of construction. The 54-unit, $9 million project won a $900,000 tax break earlier this year in March. No set construction start date has been publicized.

Close-up of the rendering on the project sign (Ross Pierce 5/13/12)

PNC Bank Building Facade Improvements

PNC Bank Before (Google Street View)

PNC Bank After (6/21/12)

The PNC Bank Building (northwest corner of Buckeye & Mulberry) Facade renovation is complete and looks quite familiar. There wasn’t much change to the building, just a little bit of updating. Unfortunately, they removed the metal grating that was over the entrance and mixed styles making the building look as if it has dual personalities of a typical Midwestern elementary school (the coordination of the brick and the 1950’s era windows) and an Italian-inspired seaside villa (The Roman arches and columns over the entrance). It does looks clean and updated, but in my opinion it is a toss-up as to whether the improvements are a welcomed change.

Jackson Street Commons

This project is set to break ground on June 28, 2012, and will provide 27 units for homeless veterans. The site is near the intersection of Jackson Street and Market on the northeast corner of downtown Kokomo. The rendering of the project looks promising, although the break in pattern of the windows between the first and upper floors makes me wonder why the developer didn’t continue the window pattern. Given the illustration I’m assuming that the inside of the building was designed then later they turned to design the outside the building, when both the inside and outside should be designed simultaneously. Overall, I’m interested in this new development. The density is exactly what downtown Kokomo needs, and this project is on a site which previously was mostly underdeveloped.

Jackson Street Commons Rendering (Image from Family Service Association of Howard County)

Around Town

Industrial Heritage Trail

This summer, the city extended the trail nearly an additional mile south and improved many of the roadway/trail intersections with new curbs and other traffic calming methods. By the end of the construction season this year, the Industrial Heritage Trail should travel under the US31 bridge over the Kokomo Creek and end near the Hampton Inn & Suites on the southeast side of US31.

New Mural along the Industrial Heritage Trail (Ross Pierce 6/21/12)

Walk of Excellence

On the edge of downtown in Foster Park, the Washington Street Pedestrian & Bike Underpass was reconstructed with more gradual slopes, wider walkways, a new sitting/outlook area with the plan to add new landscaping and paint on the Washington Street Bridge. Also within Foster Park, landscaped medians were built in-between the trail and the access drive, making a better separation between trail users and vehicles.

Washington Street Pedestrian & Bike Underpass (Ross Pierce 6/21/12)

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Kokomo Construction Roundup: March 2012

It was a beautiful day yesterday and after work I decided to go on a long bike ride. On that ride, I decided to go take a look at how some of the known construction projects downtown are developing. For the first time in what seems like my whole entire life, Kokomo has many different projects going on downtown at the same time. Here are three of the projects that have visible changes as of 3/6/12. As the construction season begins, this list will grow to include some of the other downtown development news.

Kokomo-Howard County Public Library Outreach Building

My first stop was the Outreach Building for the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library. To my surprise, the building is coming along quite quickly. You can see that as of yesterday the building’s supports are in place and the shear mass of a building is starting to take shape. From the elevation images and the articles that I’ve come across, the building won’t be a design icon in the downtown district. Although it won’t be the most beautiful building, it does provide density to a block where a parking lot previously sat.  It does provide a good street wall to both Market and Mulberry Streets, which helps enclose the street and promotes walkability. One of the MAJOR design flaws is how close the building is to the neighboring structures and doesn’t fit in well with the previously existing urban fabric in that area. The building’s orientation is exactly how I would have designed it, but I would have had more visible facade changes to mimic the existing look and feel of the surrounding structures. This is just a cookie cutter building that doesn’t provide much value and similar if not exact replicas of this structure could be found in an infinite number of communities in the world.

More on the Library Outreach Building is here in a Kokomo Tribune article.

Senior Housing Development

The Senior Housing development that I’ve previously highlighted on this blog, got some great news recently that will help get this project rolling. According to the most recent Kokomo Perspective and Kokomo Tribune newspapers, the St. Mary Development Corp. received a federal rental housing tax credit of $900,429 in addition to a $250,000 loan both from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. Within the past couple weeks, the site has been cleared and the old Hoosier Wholesale building was demolished. Site prep is ongoing and construction should begin on the $9 million project this July with a completion date in 2013.

PNC Bank Facade Improvement

Another urban design improvement downtown is the facade improvement of the PNC bank at the corner of Mulberry and Buckeye Streets. This one has a bit of mystery behind it as I have no idea how the end result will turn out. If a certain development firm is in control of it, I’m sure it will end badly, disastrous, ugly or  tasteless. I’ll get more into that in a blog entry at a later date… As for right now all we have is the facade with orange fencing near the base awaiting for construction.

Not exactly a “downtown” project but I am most certainly excited for the extension of the Industrial Heritage Trail: The current southern terminus (Boulevard) pictured below facing south to the potential future IHT extension.

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60-Unit IUK Student Housing Complex Approaches Next Hurdle

Potential style of what student housing across from IUK (Image: Kokomo Perspective)

Mecca Companies of South Bend wishes to build a 60-unit student housing complex across the street from Indiana University Kokomo. The project is up for approval with the zoning board for a special exemption and setback variances. If the project moves forward, this would improve IUK’s desireability for prospective freshmen as well as improving the quality of life for current IUK students, which could mean added future development and economic stimulation.

The owner, Annex of Kokomo LLC is asking for variances for setbacks for the front and the rear, a driveway separation variance and a buffer variance on the south and west sides of the property. If the project clears the zoning board hurdle the proposed $7 million 60-unit housing complex could be completed as early as August 2012. Continue reading

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I had a dream, a dream where a Subway was in downtown Kokomo

The other night I had the strangest dream where I was doing something in downtown Kokomo and I was riding my bike by a Subway restaurant and in my dream I thought, “Wait a minute, this is a dream. A downtown Subway would be crazy.” As everyone knows, dreams are strange and oftentimes we don’t remember many of the details. Of that dream, I only remember the “strange” detail about the Subway downtown. When I woke up the next morning, I remembered my dream and how extremely ordinary and doable the who dream was.

Funny thing is, I don’t particularly love Subway, I think I view it as a potential starting off point to getting more eating options in the center of the city. Currently, Subway has more stores than McDonalds in the United States. According to, there are 23,000 Subway locations, while McDonalds has around 14,000 stores as of June 2010. Subway has a history of locations in small and big downtowns alike, renovating existing buildings or building new buildings with decent urban design.

Here is an image of a new-build Subway restaurant in downtown Muncie.

Downtown Muncie Subway (Image: Google Street View 9/6/11)

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Main & Union Street Improvement Project: Construction Update

If you remember an earlier post I wrote about the Main & Union street improvement project, I highlighted some early thoughts on the specifics on the project. I met with Carey Stranahan on Friday, March 25, and we talked for about an hour about the Main and Union project as well as some general ideas for the future of the city of Kokomo. After the talk, I got a better understanding of the method behind the placement of the new stormwater planters along Main and Union Streets and more information about the overall project.

On Saturday, April 22, I took a walk along Main and Union Streets to see how the construction of the stormwater planters are coming along. As of Saturday, most of the stormwater planters were poured except for some on north Main. When I spoke with Carey, we talked about the biggest planter which will be located near the connection of Union Street and Home Avenue. I am most excited about this planter, because it will direct traffic more efficiently than it did before, and it will almost serve as a gateway point for that area. The planted median will be vegetated with some evergreens and other plants.

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It is kind of hard to tell, because there has been quite a lot of construction in these pictures, but as I mentioned in the previous post, the planters are not completely symmetrical as you move down the street because they are taking out existing stormwater inlets and creating the stormwater planters where those inlets where located. The asymmetrical location of the planters makes complete sense utilizing existing locations of storm water inlets. By doing this, the project is as minimally invasive as possible. Crosswalks will be marked with a faux brick texture, making the streets more pedestrian friendly. Main and Union Streets will accommodate two-way traffic, but Main Street will accommodate bike lanes and Union will not. Bike racks, flower baskets, street furniture and possibly other traffic calming techniques are focused near the Main Street business district near Markland Avenue.

Bike Path

The proposed bike path will start at the intersection of Main and Markland and will continue south along the ROW of the railroad until the path meets Boulevard Street near Chrysler. This bike path is part of a plan to include alternative modes of transportation, hoping to connect to other greenways in the area. This pathway will serve the city as its north and south spine and will support the east/west Wildcat Creek Walk of Excellence.

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“Conserve your gas by continuing to drive” – A limited view from CNHI

As I skimmed through past articles from the local newspapers online, I came across this little jewel. An article by the Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc (CNHI) in the Kokomo Tribune about the conservation of gasoline to save money. The ONLY tips given to conserve gasoline are noted as checking your maintenance schedule, avoid aggressive driving and the list below:

• Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Each 5 mph you drive above 60 mph is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon of gas.

• Remove excess weight. Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle, such as golf clubs or tool boxes. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your mileage by as much as 7 cents per gallon.

• Avoid excessive idling.

• Use the cruise control.

• Use your overdrive gears.

Nowhere does it mention using alternative modes of transportation. The article never mentions the words bus, train, bike or walk anywhere. Here is the problem. This generic article was most likely published in many other states, illustrating that as Americans we only look at solving problems with the most convenience. This article is a perfect example. The article’s impression is “We won’t give up the convenience of our vehicles, but we want to save the money we spend on powering them.” The result: an article on becoming a more efficient driver. Being an efficient driver isn’t enough, we need more radical changes. You might be able to save up to $1, by abiding by these “efficient rules,” but what will you do when gas prices rise to succumb that measly dollar saved?

The best way to save money and to conserve gasoline is to take more drastic measures to remove it from our lifestyle, like cutting down the amount of time spent in a car or by using other modes of transportation. A bike for instance might take more time to get to your location, but it also burns calories, reduces congestion, reduces road wear and tear (reduces amount of tax dollars needed for road repair) and saves more money than “observing the speed limit” in your car like CNHI suggests.

The amount of savings of using alternative transportation could easily be calculated. If you live close to where you work, walking and biking would be just as efficient. If you work further away from where you live, but live near a transit line, taking public transportation would definitely reduce the amount of fossil fuels being used. By using public transit, or using a bicycle for regular trips, a person could save $40+ per week by not using a personal vehicle. Imagine what you could spend with the money you could save by using public transit or a bicycle. If you spend as much as $40 per week and are able to use public transit or a bike for regular trips you could save around $2,000 each year. Also, where do you suppose your money goes when you guy a gallon of gasoline? Almost 75% of the money goes to crude oil extraction companies, mostly in Saudi Arabia or Russia. We are literally paying other countries so that we can drive our vehicles.

Becoming an efficient driver is not enough, cutting out excessive trips and by using alternative modes of transportation are more effective ways of saving money. But the article did get one aspect completely correct “we all must acknowledge we likely never will pay fewer than $3 per gallon for gasoline again.” With gas in the $3.90’s currently, I’d be extremely surprised to see gasoline fewer than $4 in the next coming months. And there it is: that $1 you saved by driving more efficiently is spent on gas.

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Rebranding the Kokomo Mall: Life after Elder-Beerman?

Is this the end of the Kokomo Mall as we now know it? Announced publicly Thursday and yesterday in the Kokomo Tribune, Elder-Beerman (a long-standing anchor in the Kokomo Mall) made the decision to close their Kokomo Mall location and open a Carson Pirie Scott in the Markland Mall where Macy’s once stood.

Kokomo Mall (Note: dated exterior)

There is no real way of knowing if the Kokomo Mall will turn around, but if we look at this at a development standpoint there are two good aspects to this change. It is a good thing that the company isn’t closing up shop completely in Kokomo, and we are filling a huge gap within the Markland Mall. The bad – A mall that is having a hard time to compete with the Simon-owned mall (Markland Mall) is going to have a even harder time competing with one less anchor. In my mind, the “good” mall  just got better, the “bad” mall just got worse. Continue reading

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Main & Union Street Improvement Project

It’s St. Patrick’s day, so lets talk about something green that the city of Kokomo is working on.

The other day, I decided to take an alternative route to the south side of Kokomo. Instead of using Washington to drive south, I used Main Street and noticed that some of the locations of the roadway improvements are spray-painted on the road surface. The project is detailed in the Kokomo Tribune, with Main and Union streets becoming two-way thoroughfares with bike lanes and stormwater retention planters. From my understanding, the planters will look something similar to the stormwater planters used in the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, but on a much tighter budget.

As I got out to walk around the stretch just north of Markland Avenue, I noticed that some of the stormwater planters were in strange locations. Some were midblock, some where like a typical intersection bump-out and some seemed to be on only one side of the street and not the other. From someone who finds symmetry extremely aesthetically pleasing, this bugged me. I could be wrong about the placement, since the project hasn’t even began construction yet. For all I know the city ran out of spray paint while marking the planter locations.

No planter marked in front of the Main Street Methodist Church with parking limited. Seems like a good place for a planter... (Image: Ross Pierce 03/11/11)

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Rising Fuel Costs =/= Rising Fuel Economy

As I sat in the library doing research, I couldn’t help but overhear other people talking about the newest sport car and its features. Specifically, they were talking about high performance vehicles that could go up to 230 mph, which brought to light an issue that I seldom think of on a day-to-day basis. When it comes to the automobile industry, why are we so obsessed with cars that can go 2-3 times the maximum speed limit? Most interstate highways rarely get any higher than 70 mph. In the past, we’ve seem to rarely care about how efficient the engine can be or how good of gas mileage we can achieve instead we care about how visually striking or how fast the vehicle can drive. I would like to say that we don’t have that problem today, but as I sit in a building full of future design professionals, I overhear and see a lot of students who do not practice what a lot of our professors preach. Many students I’ve come in contact look forward to buying cars that “drive real fast” or giant trucks that get 10 mpg.

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Downtown resurgence and the bump-out

I would not say that we are having a downtown resurgence completely due to the recent project downtown, but it’s hard to travel into downtown Kokomo right now and not notice some dramatic changes due to in part of the addition of bump-outs. Now traveling east on Sycamore and west on Walnut is possible, and there are stop signs at practically every corner, and downtown generally seems more attractive than in past years due to landscaping on Courthouse Square. With these changes the mayor and city administrators have been criticized for “putting makeup on a pig,” saying that these cosmetic improvements do little for the city as a whole, wasting money on unneeded improvements instead of using them for economic development. I argue that these small changes dramatically changed how accessible downtown has become for restaurants and small businesses and will benefit the local economy.

The whole “bump-out” project started out as a planned utility upgrade for sewer catch basins at 11 intersections. Should the project end there, we would have not even noticed the difference of the upgrade except for the needed ADA improvements required by law. The city had a choice of rebuilding the intersections similar to what they were pre-bump-out or to improve each intersection. In this case, the city was performing a best practice measure. They took a project that would have had no effect on the economy except for employing construction workers to upgrade the utilities and in turn made downtown more attractive and more accessible. To get a better grasp on the project, below is a graphic I made to illustrate the amount of changes we experienced with the “bump-out” project.

“Bump-out” Project (Image: Ross Pierce)

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