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First phase of downtown transformation celebrated

Several city officials participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday morning to celebrate the completion of the first block of the East Washington Street redevelopment project. Traffic can now drive along East Washington Street from the Public Square to Pike Street. The second block is still under construction and expected to be completed in November.

By JEFF BROWN - jbrown@shelbynews.com

The redevelopment of downtown Shelbyville is underway. 

On Wednesday, City of Shelbyville officials celebrated the completion of the first portion of the East Washington Street redevelopment project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun thanked all those involved in the project before joining in with several individuals to “snip” the blue ribbon that extended across East Washington Street away from the Public Square.

“This is everything we said it was going to be,” said DeBaun after the ceremony. “We’ve brought in the local investment in the public spaces and the private investment is following. This sets the expectation and the tone for downtown. But I think it’s important to remember that even when we’re doing this, even when we’re doing trails and other stuff too, it’s not about the new. It’s about making the existing accessible.

“We’ve spent outside of downtown, over $22 million over the last four years bringing in curb ramps, sidewalks, making neighborhoods accessible that weren’t accessible before, and so we’ve been running a dual path the last four years all because of the work we’ve done as a community and as a group with the city and the county and our private partners as well. This East Washington Street project sets the expectation for things to come.”

DeBaun was quick to point out several businesses along the East Washington Street corridor are undergoing, or have completed, upgrades to their storefronts.

The one block section east from the Public Square to Pike Street now features wider sidewalks, benches and trashcans, new street lights and signage, and the return of angled parking. With those amenities comes a narrower driving path along Washington Street to intentionally slow down traffic.

“If you’ve been down here for BBQ & Brewfest and Taste of Shelby County, things like that, you saw that we had very narrow sidewalks,” explained DeBaun on the decision to expand the sidewalks. “We had expanses of concrete and asphalt that were very vehicular-centric, not people-centric. So we wanted to look at those examples where people created plaza space for the individual and not the car.

“So we knew we had to create the traffic patterns for vehicles to get here and so people can get out and spend their money, but we also wanted to create that space that is welcoming to the public. You look at the benches, you look at the trees, you look at the lights, the greenspace, we’ve got plans for this corridor for the Christmas parade as well. I think people will be pleasantly surprised by the things we’re going to do on this street for that.”

Angled parking along East Washington Street was altered many years ago to parallel parking. Now it is back and allows for more parking spaces in the downtown area.

“For us, it was economy of scale, meaning we were able to go back to angle parking because we had such a wide spanse of concrete here. I know there has been some concern about two-way traffic. I’ve been standing here for half an hour and I’ve watched two-way traffic in the time I’ve been standing here with zero incidents.

“The only complaints that we’ve had so far is when people are parking and not pulling fully into the stall. I think people are used to the fact that we had an extraordinarily wide concrete and asphalt plaza here and we’ve narrowed it down to slow down speeds to widen the sidewalks, and we’ve added additional parking. We want to create more parking so people will come in and patronize the businesses that are here and the businesses that are yet to come.”