Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist
With sculptures dotting the sidewalks of Decatur’s downtown, a nature preserve under construction and a new plaza for events like the DeKegger Homebrew and BBQ Fest, the city is embodying its slogan of “artistically-inspired innovation.”
The city’s premier sculpture tour, which this year features a bear constructed out of silverware, birds in flight and a number of other pieces, is a draw for the northeast Indiana community. Visitors on a recent day meandered down Decatur’s sunny main street, cameras in tow, for a self-led walking tour where artists discuss their work via a smartphone application.
Now, city leaders are launching several projects to keep Decatur’s momentum going. And the list takes an inclusive approach to transforming the community for future generations. Projects include a five-year downtown facade program offering $50,000 a year in matching funds to spruce up storefronts, curbside recycling and new urban loft housing – just to name a few.
“Our goal is to make our quality of life such in Decatur that as Fort Wayne grows and as people move to this area that we give them the option to look at small-town life just 16 miles away,” Decatur Mayor Ken Meyer said.
And he wants young adults, who grew up in Decatur, to see returning to the community as a viable option.
“We are hoping to retain some of the local talent and encourage them to move back here after college and call Decatur home,” Meyer said.
For now, the focus is on expanding the city’s amenities. This summer the city began work on a new nature preserve that ties in with an existing trail head. Decatur also is launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the new downtown plaza. The project will consist of pavers, streetscape improvements and a sound system to create an atmosphere similar to Georgia Street in Indianapolis, where the road can be closed to vehicular traffic for events.
“It’s going to make the festival experience much better,” said Melissa Norby, the city’s director of community development. “We want to up the cool factor a little bit, so people are proud to live here and have access to great events in Decatur.”
In 2017, the city will play host to six downtown concerts, a farmers market and a number of festivals. The goal: Expose Decatur residents to different members of its art community, Norby said.
Decatur also is growing its housing options and will soon boast 16 new apartment units for downtown dwellers with a focus on attracting tenants with careers in the arts. The developer of the project secured tax credits from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and will tear down a former, dilapidated factory to create parking.
As for projects on the horizon, Decatur is launching a capital campaign to further develop its riverfront located at the end of the new plaza; reconfigure a popular park with baseball and softball fields; and build an aquatics center.
“We want to get buy-in to everything we’re doing,” Meyer said.