City Council normally meets every Tuesday, except Tuesdays that are the fifth ones of the month. This year, Council President Tom Smith has decided to meet on the fifth Tuesdays, too (I think there are four or five of them this year), and dedicate the sessions to topics of broad community interest -- Big Ideas, in other words. Last night, the session was devoted to whether we could use a Capital Improvement Board to expedite the funding of huge capital projects, most especially those for downtown -- a Big Idea for how to do Big Things. At the end of the meeing, Smith called for questions or comments from the audience, so I stood up and asked, "What are your ideas for what the next Big Thing should be?" Following are the answers. These are from City Council members, remember, so we should take them seriously. City officials have a greater ability than most to get their ideas talked about.
1. Baseball stadium downtown. This idea has broad support but a lot of detractors, too, which was evident even among council members. Councilman Don Schmidt was adamantly opposed to the idea and said most of the people he's talked to snicker at it. Councilman Sam Talarico Jr. said the people he's talked to, on the other hand, think it's a wonderful idea.
2. Develop the riverfront. This one came from Smith, who believes we're not taking advantage of a natural asset and that such development would help bring young people downtown. Smith has suggested previously that we should move the Old Fort and use that area for development.
3. Do something with the YWCA villa property.
4. Traffic. We need to both make the flow of cars in and out of downtown better and figure out how to let people get around better when they are downtown -- we need a "park and ride" idea that makes better use of public transit.
5. Signs. We have a lot of good attractions already; we just don't do a good job of calling attention to them, even something as simple as "to downtown" signs on the interstates.
6. Places to live. We need to pay attention to two critical groups -- young people and empty nesters -- who might like to live downtown. Having a group of people there all the time, not just people who come in occasionally for an event, is crucial to downtown development.
The idea that intrigues me the most is No. 3. The Fourth Wave people, in conjunction with the Salavation Army, had a wonderful plan for development of the Y villa and nearby Omnisource property. The funding didn't quite work out, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't still work on the plan. One problem we have now is that we have two areas of greatest activity and potential -- the coliseum/IPFW/Ivy Tech area, and the part of downtown area that's going to grow around the Grand Wayne/Public Library expansions. Doing something spectacular at the villa would start to tie those two areas together and really give us a large, cohesive area about which it would be exciting to think 20 years out.