Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist
The completion of a much-anticipated riverwalk and improvements at historic Kimmell Park are among the newest additions to Vincennes’ growing urban center.
In the fall, Vincennes celebrated the opening of its riverwalk, a project 20 years in the making, which allows walkers and bicyclists to travel along the Wabash River from Kimmell Park near Vincennes University to the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park. The park is home to the largest freestanding national monument outside of Washington D.C.
The riverwalk features an observation deck, shade structures and bench swings. The trail serves to connect many of the city’s historic sites, including President William Harrison’s Grouseland mansion and sites connected to the state’s territorial capitol.
“It just makes for a really nice area to walk,” and also enhances the city’s utilization of the river, Vincennes Mayor Joe Yochum said.
As for Kimmell Park, the city donated the land to Vincennes University, which is pouring $2.5 million in improvements into the park originally built in the 1930s through the WPA. Though the park is now owned by the college, it will remain open to the public, representing a “win-win” for students and Vincennes residents, Yochum said.
Downtown Vincennes also is benefiting from a new organization, InVin, which is striving to bring arts and business innovation into the city. Already, the group has raised more than $250,000 in private donations to help jumpstart projects. In addition, the city received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to redevelop the Pantheon Theatre, where entertainer Red Skelton once performed, into a co-working space and business incubator.
“We’ve got young talent that is leaving this area, and if we can get them to start here and grow a business, it will help Vincennes grow,” Yochum said.
The theater project is one of many new investments in the city. Pioneer Oil Co., relocated its headquarters from Illinois to Downtown Vincennes in 2015. City officials are looking into beginning a facade improvement project and a new microbrewery will open soon.
“It’s because everybody is working together,” Yochum said. “I like to say we finally all got on the same bus and are headed in the same direction to make sure things keep progressing.”