Indiana Central News
Terre Haute, Indiana
Terre Haute, Indiana
By Lucy Perry
SULLIVAN -- The dumpster sitting outside one building in downtown Sullivan is symbolic of a major transformation underway.
The former site of Runt's Lounge, 30 W. Washington St. -- just across from the Sullivan County Courthouse -- is beginning to come back to to life after some time spent vacant. In fact, the sale of the building to a private investor was finalized last week. Officials say plans for a new family restaurant to open at the location will happen as soon as possible and information will be disclosed once arrangements are finalized. Additionally, those plans include upstairs apartment units and office space.
The sight of a struggling downtown and the potential for revitalization, is all too familiar to the new owner KipCor, Inc.'s Jeff Broughton. His recent building projects in the city of Kokomo tell a typical story of small-town America and the general decline of downtown activity in many communities.
"I have buildings that have been vacant for about five decades, and now we've got businesses downtown, and restaurants -- 16 restaurants that are going to be slated for downtown Kokomo," Broughton said today during press conference held inside the Sullivan Civic Center. He noted the beauty of a church in view from across the field while he sat inside the Sullivan Civic Center. The remodeled civic center is a building that what was once Central Elementary school. He believes older buildings like these are a community's treasures.
In the case of the Runt's building, renovation has been extensive in creating the needed curb appeal to draw business. The courthouse across the street boosts Broughton's confidence in the property. He says change is what it takes to bring people back downtown; and it's that type of investment that gets the ball rolling for further development. His experience shows that the first step is critical and often leads to the transformation of an entire city block .
"The only way you get to revitalize a downtown area is to put retail back -- bring something to the downtown area that will attract people," he said. "Once you start creating a buzz, it's infectious."
Mayor Clint Lamb agrees. He says it's an exciting time for the city.After putting together the first comprehensive master plan since 1945, Lamb said the residents have stepped up to make a difference to the city.
"I think you're starting to see that excitement come back, and that enthusiasm. And that pendulum is starting to swing back our direction," Lamb said, adding that recognition from the private sector of the efforts by the City Council and Redevelopment Commission reinforce the potential for progress.
Redevelopment President Jim Exline sees new business on the square as a significant milestone for the City of Sullivan's efforts to increase assessed valuation and to eliminate blight.
"To create a more livable, walkable city; and to create activity in the heart of our city," Exline told reporters, adding that today's announcement is just another part in the plan. "These are things, that over the past decade, we've lost -- and other communities have lost as well. We're taking steps to address that."
Broughton, of southern California, commutes to Indiana weekly and owns a home in Kokomo.
"The reason I chose Indiana, is it's my favorite state," he said, adding that he's done business in 35 states across the midwest and the state is a "safe bet" from an investor's viewpoint.
In cities such as Sullivan and Kokomo, it's the small details that matter. Broughton believes that's what shows the city is committed to redevelopment.
© Indiana Central News. All rights reserved. Terre Haute, Indiana
News Writer: Lucy Perry