Shelbyville mayor pitching plan for millions in downtown upgrades

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SHELBYVILLE, Ind. - Shelbyville’s mayor says the city’s downtown needs some major sprucing up, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. He’s currently pitching a massive redevelopment plan to city and county councils.

But not everyone in Shelbyville appears sold on the deal.

“I would say it’s an investment in the long term viability of the community,” said Tom DeBaun, Shelbyville Mayor.

DeBaun says the city’s downtown has to change to help businesses recruit and thrive.

“It’s an economic development incentive. We’ve got to bring talent here to support our existing industry,” he said.

His proposal comes after a year of working with developers and designers and looking at downtown revitalizations in other central Indiana communities, targeted toward millennials.

Key points of the plan include creating a central gathering plaza, re-orienting parking either by use of an underground or surface lot, getting rid of the circular traffic flow, and turning historic buildings into a hotel and living spaces.

The price tag runs anywhere from between $19 and $27 million, up to $39 million if you include possible private investment.

Some say they thought a change is welcome.

“Shelbyville needs a little uplifting,” said Theresa Basey,” I’ve been around here 60 years, and I think it needs a little spiffing up.”

Others aren’t so sure and remain hesitant about the redesign and how much it could all cost.

“Everybody else is going to roundabouts and we’re just going to make it straight,” said Jane Brattain,” It just seems unusual to me.”

“The cost of anything is huge, especially if a community could handle that,” said Megan Hickey, “I just like the traditional small-town feel. I like the circle and the beauty of it.”

DeBaun says he understands the concerns but believes the downtown as-is could be Shelbyville’s un-doing.

“There are people out there who are averse to change. They don’t want to see anything change, but we can understand by just being in the downtown area if something doesn’t change then we will not be successful,” he said.

DeBaun says the city is looking at all financing options including bonds and grants. Projects would need various types of approval through either city or county councils or both.

He anticipates the soonest anything could be done is likely three to four years.