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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Greg Goodnight’s positive effect on the City of Kokomo

Kokomo’s Mayor, Greg Goodnight, is up for reelection tomorrow. Many reasons noted by unions for backing Goodnight for reelection is because of his dedication for quality of life issues and retaining and attracting new business to the city of Kokomo. Here are some of the reasons why I support Greg Goodnight:

The City Line & alternative transportation

Before Greg Goodnight was mayor, the city of Kokomo was one of the largest cities in Indiana without a free or low-cost public transportation option. (Source) The city itself has been lacking a mass transit source for over 40 years, and has been relying solely on automotive transportation and within the past 10 years has just begun delving into alternative transportation sources. Under Greg Goodnight’s reign as mayor, the city of Kokomo has seen the birth of the City Line trolley as well as a mile and a half of new multi-use pathways and 5.5 miles of bike lanes within the last year. The city created the Industrial Heritage Trail, a rail-with-trail project that cleaned up an unused railroad line creating a safer place for people to bike as well as beautifying a formerly littered industrial area of the city. In the past year to 2 years, the city essentially created alternative transportation infrastructure, catching Kokomo up to other similarly sized cities that already have these amenities in place.

Downtown Revitalization

In the past 4 years the city has seen some tremendous things happen in downtown Kokomo. For the first time in years, the majority of the downtown area had new pavement at the same time as well as a reduction in sign and street clutter and the introduction of the “bump-out” to the “City of Firsts.” Our downtown hasn’t looked better than it does now. With the creation of the “Riverfront District,” downtown Kokomo has seen an influx of businesses making downtown a more attractive business location. With the removal of 4 one-way streets that often confused drivers and deterred customers, the city is more accessible by all modes of transit.

Business Growth

Under Greg Goodnight, the city has attracted new businesses and the opening of many new stores and restaurants. New businesses includes a $25 Million Delphi expansion, Carney-Echelbarger Machining relocating to Kokomo, Angie Meyer’s Design Studio, Planet Mind Learning Store, Comics Cubed, MC Sports, a relocation of Artworks to downtown, Westwind Wood Specialities and a $5 Million Fed-Ex expansion. Some of the eating establishments include Cook MacDougals, Dunkin Donuts, Chipotle, The Vault, Hibachi Grill, Whisky Creek, Supreme Buffet, and two “Green” Subway’s.

What do you want in a community? Do you want to be able to walk to vibrant business districts? Ride your bike safely, any time of day, to work or for recreation? Greg Goodnight has been a forward-thinking mayor compared to past mayors and the city as a whole has benefited from his guidance. As I illustrated in this post, Greg Goodnight has removed Kokomo from the Forbe’s list of fastest dying towns and became the Community of the Year according to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. We need to continue that success for the next four years, instead of relying on someone who clearly doesn’t know the demands of running a municipal government like Scott Kern.

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UPDATED: New Mural along the Wildcat Walk of Excellence

Finished Mural (Image: Ross Pierce 10/21/11)

There is a new mural in town along the Wildcat Creek Walk of Excellence in downtown Kokomo.

It is located along the Wildcat Creek Walk of Excellence near it’s intersection with Union Street. In my opinion, the mural is pretty cool. I like the use of color, and the contrast between the bright colors and the black. Although I’m unsure how I feel about the black wispy tree, or what I assume is a tree that flows behind the Native American’s back. The idea of celebrating Native Americans in the Midwest isn’t anything new, but this mural is nice take of the idea and it celebrates our heritage as a city, after all, we are supposedly named after an indian chief. Its location is on a building in what used to be the Apperson Brothers Automobile Company Buildings, an early car manufacturer.

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5 Screen Movie Theater coming to Peru, IN

Peru's Roxy 5 Movie Theater (Image: Kokomo Tribune)

As you might have realized with An Indianapolis Festival Day, I’m trying to branch out slightly in the world of blogging, I’m also going to attempt to branch out geographically. So for this post, I took a better look at the new 5 screen movie theater coming to Peru, Indiana.

For those of you who read the local newspapers, some articles have come out giving details on the 5 screen movie theatre located within Peru’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. The new Roxy 5 Movie Theater will be the only movie theater within Miami County and hope to keep residents from traveling to Kokomo for entertainment. Continue reading

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An Indianapolis Festival Day

IMA Fountain (Image: Ross Pierce 9/10/11)

This past weekend, I spent some time with some friends going to two festivals in the Indianapolis area. We went to the Penrod Arts Fair at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and later went to experience Greekfest at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Carmel. It ended up being such an awesome day of some good ole-fashioned cultured fun. Picture heavy post after the break: 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 ezlocal.com, 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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Achieving a different kind of Water Quality when city demolishes Dam

When I was finishing up my degree at Ball State University, I first heard that the city decided to demolish the Crystal Street Dam. I was glad to hear that there would be public investment on the quality of our local waterways. In an article released recently in the Kokomo Tribune, this dam has been a drowning hazard for many years, and with the removal will leave only one other piece of infrastructure for canoeists to look out for between eastern Howard County to the Wabash River.

One time when I was younger, I fell into the Wildcat Creek. I came out smelling like a wet dog and remember my clothing was stiff after letting them dry for a short period of time. Needless to say I immediately took a shower after falling in, but even at a young age I knew that the water in the creek was extremely polluted. That was probably more than ten years ago, and I’m not confident that the water quality of the rivers and streams have improved in Howard County or at the state level.

I’m glad that we are trying to improve the experience of the canoeists, but I think that the real issue of our waterways is not being addressed on a state level. Our creeks, rivers and streams have been noted as being polluted with toxins that create reproductive problems in wildlife species, which is passed on to any organism that feasts on the infected individual. Some uneducated or people without means will eat fish they catch in these local waterbodies, and would be ingesting toxins that will reside in their system and change the way their body functions. Now combine that with whatever is in the sewer system should it overflow into the waterway when there is a heavy rainfall. Needless to say this is not how our local water should be.

What used to be a pristine attraction that once influenced early settlers to create new establishments, the quality of our waterways have quickly been degraded and often seen as disgusting, pungent and toxic. We need to see change. We need to plant vegetation to help filter out toxins before they reach rivers and streams, which could help keep geese out of public parks and create habitat for other local animal species. A select few communities have began to create local clean water policies, but without funding and stronger clean water policies at a state level we will not see much change in the quality of our waterways.

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Urban Bike Etiquette

In the past year or so Kokomo has seen quite a lot of bike friendly infrastructure improvements, and as I’ve seen, many people don’t quite know the do’s and don’ts when it comes to biking within an urban area. Some of these tips are somewhat common sense, but it is nice to look at ways to make riding in the city safer.

Biking Etiquette

Here are some widely accepted rules for bike etiquette via the city.milwaukee.gov:

Traveling Through an intersection

This tip is something that comes naturally when you start to ride on busy roads. I found out that if I put myself in the center of the travel lane, cars won’t try to speed past me or turn abruptly into me, otherwise known as the “Right Hook.”

(Image: City of Milwaukee)

Making a Left Hand turn

The following images illustrates 2 easy tips when making a left turn. As you see, these two tips are exactly what a car should do when making the same movement through traffic.

(Image: City of Milwaukee)

(Image: City of Milwaukee)

Watch out for parked cars

This is one of the things that I am worried about when I ride on many of the city’s new bike lanes. I constantly visualize that image of the NYC biker riding down a busy street when a taxicab door opens and injures the biker. Keep a look out! When vehicular traffic isn’t busy, I will try to ride as close to the vehicular lanes instead of the parked cars-or I ride outside the “door zone” like it shows in the following pictures to distance myself from car doors.

(Image: City of Milwaukee)

(Image: City of Milwaukee)

NEVER ride against traffic

This one of the tips that has changed in my opinion in the past couple years. When I was growing up, there was a different mindset about biking in the city. I grew up being told that I should ride my bike against traffic so that I could see the cars and they could see me, instead of cars speeding up behind me. Then again, I could have been given the wrong information. Now, bikes are widely viewed as a form of transportation; we keep bikes going in the same direction of cars as a safety issue for both cars and bicyclists.

This is one of the rules that I see broken the most. I have even seen bicyclists ride against traffic, in vehicular lanes when there are bike lanes available on both sides of the street. In my opinion, this rule continues to apply to bikers when there are bike lanes. I’ve noticed bike lanes being used as a sidewalk would, which is not how they should be used. Bike lanes should be used in accordance to the direction of traffic on that side of the street.

(Image: City of Milwaukee)

When Approaching a Four-way Stop

This tip highlights two issues one might have when coming to a four-way stop.

“Stoptional”

Depending on where you are, sometimes it is common for bicyclists to blow through stop signs should there not be any vehicles nearby to keep up momentum. In come cities, bicyclists use stop signs as “yield” signs instead of coming to a complete stop. For me, it depends on the intersection entirely. I ride by the “stoptional” idea of vehicular stop signs as optional. If the intersection is busy, I obey the rules of the road entirely just as if I were a car. If it is a residential street and I have good sight clearance, I might blow through the stop sign without slowing down. To be the safest while riding in the city, riders should make a complete stop at stop signs.

(Image: City of Milwaukee)

Ride Predictably

I oftentimes have a hard time following this rule. Sometimes on timid streets, there are very few cars parked on-street. I tend to ride as close to the edge of the street wherever I ride unless there is a bike lane, so sometimes I find myself doing exactly what is said not to do.

(Image: City of Milwaukee)

Biking on the sidewalk

This is one of the tips that is DEFINITELY not followed in cities like Kokomo where there isn’t very much pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks:

(Image: City of Milwaukee)

This first tip is not accurate in the state of Indiana. It is not illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk, although I’ve always found that if there is a possibility of high pedestrian traffic (ie, downtown or in a village setting), I refrain from the sidewalk. I keep off the sidewalks in almost every occasion, except when I find that riding on the street is impossible or unbearable. The only time I will ride a bike on the sidewalk is on extremely busy streets like Sycamore and Washington, here in the city of Kokomo. Sycamore is a poorly designed 2 lane highway that only services the needs of automobiles, and Washington is also a highway but with four lanes.

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Senior Citizen Housing development coming to downtown Kokomo

Yesterday in the Kokomo Perspective a new development downtown was revealed on a currently dilapidated parcel near the Railroad Station district of downtown Kokomo. The project includes 50-70 units in a 3-4 story building located at the intersection of Washington and Taylor Streets across the road from the Masonic Temple. The project was mentioned here in the Kokomo Tribune.

Senior Housing Site Plan (Image: Redrawn by Ross Pierce 8/8/11)

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Opinion Post: Buckeye Street Mural

Mural on Buckeye Street (Image: Ross Pierce 7/5/11)

I want your opinion. I am on the fence about this new mural in downtown Kokomo. The mural took the place of parts of boarded up old windows on a building on Courthouse Square. Continue reading

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