Cities Boost Downtowns in High And Low-Tech Ways

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(Downtown Peru Image Courtesy of the Miami County Chamber of Commerce) (Downtown Peru Image Courtesy of the Miami County Chamber of Commerce)

Two Indiana cities, one small and one large, are announcing new efforts aimed at boosting the quality of life in their respective downtown areas. Peru will offer free wi-fi throughout its downtown, while Fort Wayne officials will cut the ribbon Tuesday on an urban farm where a fire station once stood. Peru Mayor Jim Walker says it's important to continue to boost what he calls the "heartbeat" of the city. He says cities of all sizes, especially rural communities like his, face challenges including parking, absentee ownership, legal "red tape" for developing decaying buildings.

City leaders have both made redeveloping their downtowns a focus.

Beginning with projects such as Parkview Field locating downtown seven years ago, Fort Wayne has continued to try to attract private investment for both businesses and residents. That multi-million project was followed up by the $19 million Harrison Square project, which is adjacent to the ballpark, the $100 million Ash Brokerage Skyline development and the $27 million Cityscape Flats project.

The city says Mayor Tom Henry, 6th District Councilman Glynn Hines and members of Housing and Neighborhood Development Services Board will join neighborhood leaders and contractors at the property of the former Fire Station #9 Tuesday afternoon for a groundbreaking ceremony for what the city says will be its first urban farm.

Mayor Walker's city doesn't have the same scale of resources as a Fort Wayne, but says his city has been working with local business owners to fix sidewalks and walkways, as well as help push forward a facade program and explore reuse of some aging downtown space as an alternative to demolition.

Walker tells Inside INdiana Business it's important to provide tools to attract business downtown.
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