KENDALLVILLE — Kendallville’s downtown parklet may have made its debut last summer, but this year a few upgrades have spruced up the street-side feature.
After rolling out in July last year to some mixed reviews, the downtown sitting area is now in its final, completed form and city leaders hope residents take the time to take a load off and relax in the downtown.
The parklet made its return to the two parking spaces in front of the Kendallville Area Chamber of Commerce office earlier this month, but residents who remember the all-black box that some people described as “dumpstery” should have noticed a new shade-of-blue wrap around the exterior.
Featuring the Rotary International logo — the parklet was funded solely through fundraising efforts of the Kendallville Rotary Club that put up around $40,000 to have it built — the exterior also includes a series of words describing how to use it: “Relax, Gather, Play, Sing, Eat, Sit, Dance, Chill, Perform.”
Within the last two weeks, the blue and green triangular awnings have also been installed, creating shade during the morning and midday hours when the parklet is typically bathed in sunlight. Last year, without them, the parklet could get scorching until the early evening when the sun dipped behind the buildings on the west side of Main Street.
Kendallville Rotary Club President Chris Jansen, who also operates his law office in downtown Kendallville, said Rotary took on the project as a well to spur some new activity on Main Street.
“Rotary’s whole mission is to do things both locally and worldwide. We’re always looking for projects and things we can do to give back to the community,” Jansen said. “I think this was one of the things that came about from that.”
In working with the Activate Noble County group, which aims to get people outdoors and more active in their daily lives, the parklet seemed like a good fit, he said.
“It was something identified as a potential improvement for Noble County, to get people outside, bring them downtown and get people active,” Jansen said.
Rotary took on the fundraising goal to collect tens of thousands, then hired some local firms to manufacture the parklet to keep the project even more local. The parklet was funded entirely through Rotary, with no city tax dollars involved in its creation.
At its most basic level, the parklet fills a need in the downtown — somewhere to sit down. Beyond that, it’s something unique in Kendallville that other communities in the area don’t have and he hopes the parklet becomes utilized often during other downtown events.
For example, in the upcoming Food Truck Friday on June 7, musical artist Pierce Baczynski is expected to perform at the parklet.
“It gives you a different opportunity. Before where would you sit out? Where would you do something downtown?” Jansen said.
Kendallville Board of Works members Don Gura and Jim Dazey both said they’re enthused about the parklet, especially in its finished form.
In an effort to revitalize the downtown, Kendallville has to innovate and the parklet is one way to add a new feature that might generate activity, Dazey said. Having it could also help the city’s chances as it again applies for a state streetscape grant, since it shows the city’s commitment to the downtown.
“I think it’s something we need to try and use to see if we can attract something downtown,” Dazey said.
Gura noted that in combination with the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council’s upcoming alleyscape project between Strand Theatre and Antiques and More, a project that is planned to begin taking shape this summer, Kendallville has created two gathering spaces in downtown.
Combine that with something like the very popular Fairy, Gnome and Troll Festival the city hosted May 18, and the city is taking steps toward renewing interest in downtown.