Efforts to revamp downtown Sullivan paying off

Many community downtowns have faded into the background as many turn to big box stores to shop, and chain restaurants to eat at. But Sullivan residents are taking their downtown back!

Posted: Apr 30, 2018 6:04 PM
Updated: Apr 30, 2018 6:22 PM

SULLIVAN, Ind. (WTHI) - Many community downtowns have faded into the background as many turn to big box stores to shop, and chain restaurants to eat at. But one local city is taking their downtown back!

In Sullivan, there are many projects happening in the downtown region. City officials are hoping to draw in more business, and more people. With the warmer temperatures, comes a lot of beautification efforts, and construction.

A snapshot of people walking through downtown Sullivan. (WTHI Photo, Lacey Clifton)

Sullivan Mayor Clint Lamb says when he took office in January of 2012, the goal was to put together a comprehensive master plan. While most cities do one every 3 to 7 years, that plan was the first one for Sullivan since 1945.

Now in 2018, Lamb says residents can finally see the results of a community effort to take their town back.

Lamb shares, "Whether it's the Sullivan Civic Center, whether it's 37 streetlights downtown, whether it's 18 new trees planted, and now this Sullivan Greenway System. Street paving to come later this summer. 40 new housing units here in the Sullivan community. 10 duplexes. 7 apartments at the historic City Hall. 13 apartments on the south side of the square with a historic renovation."

Often times, Lamb says communities design comprehensive plans to be eligible for grants, then never act on them. 

Lamb considers what Sullivan is doing as "working the plan." This means they're actually following through with projects, and reaping the benefits.

Lamb says, "What we can do, is replenish the activity downtown."

Jen Petty is the owner of Petty Pit Stop. What was once a small takeout location shared with another business, has now turned into her own space in downtown with seating.

Petty shares, "In 2017 we were able to move into a small takeout location in Sullivan. We shared a space with another business, Kara's Cupcakes, and luckily that was successful enough that just a couple of weeks ago we were able to open a dine-in location in downtown Sullivan."

Petty credits her success to the city revamping downtown.

She says, "It's exciting not only to see the growth of the business, but the growth in the community and how many more people are starting to come to Sullivan and seeing a lot of businesses flourish downtown."

Revitalizing a downtown doesn't just mean businesses or sidewalks, it also means housing. Which Sullivan Mayor Clint Lamb says is an excellent way to draw more people downtown.

Lamb says, "We're trying to do things for residents that are going to be here in five years, ten years, and children that haven't been born yet."

But for the folks who are already here, Petty says, they’re definitely noticing changes for the better.

Petty adds, "They're really excited about it. And definitely, even, they've come and spent more time downtown and seen the change in the community and how much everything is improving and becoming a much more attractive place to spend time."

Downtown Sullivan will soon release a marketing campaign for its own "brand." The slogan will be, "It feels good to be here." Lamb says with all the beautification efforts, construction, and thriving businesses, it will genuinely feel good to be downtown.

Lamb says downtown offers many options for shopping, worshipping, eating, and more. He says new banners coming soon to downtown will reflect the different amenities the area has to offer.

Jumping outside of downtown, the city of Sullivan continues its blight elimination program with great success, and later this year the "Paths to Progress" program will kick in.

Mayor Lamb says stay tuned for later this year. In June, he says the comprehensive plan will be revisited. That’s when the city will come up with a game plan to tick items off a healthy to-do list for the city.

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