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What’s Corydon’s future?

What’s Corydon’s future?
What’s Corydon’s future?
Visitors at the Corydon Downtown Revitalization Plan workshop at the Harrison County Public Library study maps and ponder priorities for the town. (Photos by Randy West)

Could Corydon become a ‘gateway’ for tourists who want to explore the attractions in the ‘Southern Indiana Highlands’?
Could Corydon become a jumping-off place for tourists who want their children to experience a few days on a real working farm or vineyard?
Is Corydon ready for an amphitheater seating 2,000 or 3,000, a new venue for the Corydon Jamboree and Hayswood Theatre, or a cultural museum at the old Keller Manufacturing Co. plant site?
These are a few of the ideas that came up at a free Corydon Downtown Revitalization Plan forum for the public on March 3.
Sean Hawkins, the community development manager for the Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau, called 75 people to encourage them to spend some time at the workshop at the Harrison County Public Library in Corydon.
One hundred and five attended during a seven-hour period.
All were asked to study maps of historic downtown Corydon, ask questions, talk to three professional planning consultants, and offer their own views on what’s important when it comes to making the downtown economically viable and attractive to tourists.
The workshop was sponsored by the Town of Corydon, Main Street Corydon and the HCCVB.
The respondents, many of whom are business people, were asked to fill out a retail shopping survey, examine large ‘revitalization framework analysis maps’ prepared by the consultants, suggest improvements with post-it notes on the maps, and then vote for three goals on a large flip chart.
All the suggestions will be incorporated in a study the consultants plan to release in a few weeks.
The consultants are DLZ of Indianapolis and the Strategic Development Group (SDG) of Bloomington.
Hawkins said the workshop resulted in ‘tons’ of good ideas.
Here are some of the things people want to see: old buildings restored; attractive signs put up; specific types of businesses recruited; low-interest loan pools for businesses to make improvements; keeping the downtown a place for entrepreneurs; self-guided walking tours; rerouting Tyson Foods truck traffic; modernizing the Harrison County Fairgrounds, and improving the four ‘gateways’ into Corydon: S.R. 62 on the east and west, North Capitol Avenue (Old S.R. 135) on the north, and S.R. 337 and Old S.R. 135 on the south.
There was plenty of interest in the Indian Creek Trail project; pedestrian safety; burying utility lines, and ways to take advantage of the Keller Manufacturing Co. plant property. (Keller recently closed its wood furniture production plant on Big Indian Creek and moved everything to New Salisbury.)
Hawkins was pleased with the number of people who expressed support for the revitalization effort. ‘This was a great opportunity (for the public) to be part of the process,’ he said. ‘We gained a whole lot of new supporters for our master plan that will come out in July.
‘Maintaining a healthy downtown Corydon is a healthy thing for the whole county. You have to think about the uniqueness of the downtown, and try to make it vibrant and energetic and welcoming to the locals and tourists as well.
‘Later on,’ he said, ‘we’ll all be glad that we took the time to ask people their opinions and worked as a team on a comprehensive plan.
‘A great downtown just doesn’t happen. It takes people who get involved. It takes foresight and leadership. We’re trying our hardest to provide that.’
The Keller plant site has sparked many ideas: a park, an amphitheater, a performing arts center, an expanded theater for the Corydon Jamboree and Hayswood Theatre, apartments for senior citizens, a series of shops for artists and craftsmen, retail offices.
Downtown business surveys will give the consultants data on how much money local people spend in Corydon for everyday items like food, clothes and basic services, and how much local businesses earn for those same products.
Those who filled out surveys were asked to say where and how often they did most of their shopping. They were asked to comment on downtown parking, cleanliness, traffic, shopping hours, promotions, crime and safety, quality of businesses, cost of goods and the selection.
They were asked to name the kinds of businesses they would most like to see downtown, and how they learn about downtown shopping, sales and events.
Diane Cooper runs The Natural Touch spa in Corydon. Naturally, she wants Corydon to thrive. She said she believes Corydon has a lot of potential, but she also understands that it will be reached with gradual, not spectacular, growth.
Scott Sawyer, an artist and landscape designer who moved to Corydon recently, said he’d like to see more tourist activity around the town square and business development north along North Capitol Avenue to Big Indian Creek.
Consultant Peter Fritz, with DLZ of Indianapolis, said historic downtown Corydon is defined as the area bordered on the north by Big Indian Creek, Little Indian Creek on the south, Gerdon Youth Center on the east, and Big Indian Creek on the west.
Fritz said the revitalization plan will be presented first to the Main Street Corydon Advisory Committee which started this process, and then at a public meeting.
With its ‘intact town center, Corydon already has a lot going for it,’ Fritz said.
‘We look forward to building upon what’s here and building upon the vibrancy and revitalization and take it to the next level.’
The ‘next level,’ he said, is ‘exploring the vision of the town that celebrates its history.
‘Downtown investment is key,’ he said.
Fritz’s firm has done revitalization and development work in Brownstown, Charlestown, Columbus, Richmond and Elwood.
Fritz said one of the best ideas he’s heard is transforming the Keller plant site into a huge opportunity for tourism.
He said it’s located on a ‘gateway’ to Corydon off Interstate 64 and is one of the first things visitors see when they come into Corydon from the north.
‘It’s a big opportunity to shape the downtown with a multi-use structure.’ For example, there could be an ‘outdoor entertainment venue,’ say, for the Corydon Jamboree, or a stage for a theater seating 2,000 to 3,000.
‘It would be a challenge to get people in and out of that site for a big event, but it can be done,’ Fritz said.
The Keller site could also include an interpretive center or museum, retaining the old brick buildings with the arched windows. It could be a ‘mixed use’ building incorporating a number of things: interpretive center or museum and antique shopping mall.
Another idea would be to make Corydon a ‘gateway’ to the ‘Southern Indiana Highlands,’ aiming the way to our many caves, the Harrison-Crawford State Forest and Wyandotte Woods State Recreation Area, Leavenworth (Old and New), Blue River, Hoosier National Forest, St. Meinrad, Lincoln State Park, and Holiday World at Santa Claus.
‘Corydon has the amenities and character to be a gateway community for cultural tourism and agri-tourism, merging with new interest in cultural tourism and agri-tourism on the state level,’ Fritz said. He sees farms and places like Turtle Run Winery near Lanesville being tourist attractions.
‘A whole generation of people didn’t grow up on a farm. They want to discover this rural agricultural setting. Corydon is positioned to be a gateway to that. The state is doing agri-tourism workshops all around the state now.’
Hawkins would like to see tourists stay here longer, from 3-1/2 hours to perhaps three days. ‘That’s the goal of everything we’re trying to do here: get people to stay here, eat here, stay all night.’

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