Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist

Columbus is heading a trail project, whose route will showcase the city’s world-renowned architecture and spur investment in a traditionally underserved area.

The trail will run adjacent to Indiana 46, and connect through Downtown Columbus into the popular Mill Race Park. In doing so, the trail will cross Fifth Street, which is known for housing the “largest collection of significant architecture in the smallest space,” Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop said.

But the trail also will travel through Columbus’ east side, an area of the city prime for redevelopment.

“When you talk about what it is that makes a community livable and desirable, I think being attractive is a first step,” Lienhoop said.

Motorists used to come into Columbus from the north, but the state rerouted Indiana 46 to cut through the east side, an older portion of the city that hasn’t received as much attention.

“There’s that old phrase: ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression.’ So when people are coming into Columbus from the east, it takes them through one of the older sections of town, and one that hasn’t had the benefits of the redevelopment dollars we can pretty easily see on the west side of town,” Lienhoop said.

City leaders hope the trail, which also includes lighting and other streetscape improvements, will attract private development. The city is using tax-increment financing to support the project.

“We think it’s a great application of TIF dollars,” Lienhoop said. “We’ve already begun to see some business activity along this corridor in anticipation this project will be completed. It will enhance the visual of the area, as well as attract people, which is essentially what retailers need.”

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