Tag Archives: Quality of Life

Fishers Nickel Plate District Trail Project

Fishers Trail Project 116th Street (Image: IBJ.com 11/18/11)

Within the past couple weeks, the Fishers Nickel Plate District Trail Project has reappeared on my radar. I first saw the news story when it broke in the Indianapolis Business Journal last year in November. I recently came in contact with it again when I spoke with the person who works for the company responsible for the unique pavement techniques used in the project. Once I saw some of the pictures, I had to take a look myself. Continue reading

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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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UPDATE: Sycamore Commons Convenience Store proposed for “Manetoowa” Parcel

"Manetoowa" sitting in front of the proposed site (Image: http://www.waymarking.com)

According to a article in the Kokomo Tribune on 12/20/11, Fortune Management is proposing to build a convenience store on the lot where the Indian Maiden statue is currently located. The development could provide everyday necessities that would normally not be within walking distance for people living east of downtown. The project is also located at an important automobile and bicycling route within downtown Kokomo, which “ups the stakes,” creating certain expectations on a currently empty site. Continue reading

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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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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.

Continue reading

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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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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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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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