LAWRENCE, Ind. – The city of Lawrence has plans to transform this year. It’s launching a major economic development project that’s focused on Fort Benjamin Harrison. The city is hoping to become a destination for art and culture.
The city has announced plans for the Fort Harrison Cultural Campus. Thanks to a $5.85 million Lilly Endowment grant, the city will be able to start work this year on a project Mayor Steve Collier calls monumental.
“It’s big. It’s huge. It’s probably the biggest single grant the city has ever received, and it will certainly change the face of the city,” said Judy Byron, Executive Director of Arts for Lawrence.
Byron has waited for this moment for the past 10 years.
“I’m a resident of Lawrence, so this is my backyard. I love Fort Harrison it’s a beautiful area but the only thing it was lacking was the arts and culture,” said Byron.
There are seven phases for the Fort Harrison Cultural Campus. People can expect to see upgrades to the theater, an outdoor plaza with an amphitheater, and playgrounds for all ages, along with many upgrades to lighting and benches.
“They’re 10 swings that play music when they swing but if the whole group swings in unison it will actually play a melody. So, it enables strangers to work together to get this melody playing. That’s the whole concept behind the cultural campus,” said Byron.
That’s not all. The Fort Harrison Cultural Campus will also highlight the military history that many already know.
“Then we’re actually moving an historic building that is currently owned by the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority,” said Byron.
The Fort Harrison State Park and golf course already attracts visitors and those who live in the area. However, this is just another way to bring people in. Aletha Dunston is the Executive Director of Fort Harrison Reuse Authority. She said she would like to see more people checking out what Lawrence has to offer.
“Fort Ben is more than just a state park. The state park is wonderful, but we have so much here to offer including an Ivy Tech campus, a YMCA, we have soon a new library branch will be developed here, a hotel, we have several projects coming. The other thing is we have 11 unique locally owned restaurants here.”
“We look forward to seeing more people here at the fort, living, working and playing,” said Dunston.
A transformation for Lawrence, that Mayor Collier hopes will set his city apart.
“When you have a vibrant art and cultural district in your city, you’re going to see economic development around that. You don’t have to go very far to see that happening. Whether it’s Carmel, Westfield, or Fishers, there’s evidence of that all over the place.”
The cultural campus is set to be complete by 2023. However, Mayor Collier says it could take longer. He hopes the city can continue to add on projects through this redevelopment.