A new focus on downtown
June 20, 2012
By Dave Schultz
The effort to improve downtown Bluffton is slowly getting into a higher gear, based on recommendations from a study undertaken late last year.
Suzanne Huffman, executive director of the Wells County Chamber of Commerce, says a focus group has had one meeting on how to improve the city’s downtown area.
“We’ve had one meeting where we had an individual from the Fort Wayne Downtown Improvement District speak to us,” Huffman said. “They are working on revitalizing buildings in their downtown, and we heard some ideas.”
There is also an effort to get a group to go to Kalamazoo, Mich., where a similar effort has been under way. “We would like to talk to some people up there about what they are doing,” Huffman said.
In all, she said, “We’re just pretty much getting started.”
The city has had HyettPalma Inc. — the husband and wife team of Doyle Hyett and Dolores Palma — in on two separate occasions to look at the downtown area and make recommendations. The two visits were separated by about a decade; the second visit, done last fall, was an evaluation of the progress following the first report and a chance to make recommendations for continued improvement.
The second report urged the establishment of a single entity to focus on downtown improvement, encouraged county government to get involved because of Bluffton’s status as the county seat and the presence of the Wells County Courthouse, and said that it was necessary for “the private sector (to) be motivated to support downtown and participate in the downtown effort.”
The report made this conclusion: “By the year 2017, if all of the above were in place, downtown Bluffton would have the following image: A vibrant, fun, and friendly place with great shops, restaurants, cafes, art, and entertainment — and lots of things to do; a popular destination that has movement and activity all day and into the night.”
That process has now started.