Elkhart, IN River District Implementation Plan (CNU award)

Elkhart’s leaders knew their city, once reliant on manufacturing, needed to diversify its economy. The City’s appointed public/private River District
Implementation Team (RDIT) was formed to plan the River District, and work began on bringing in developers to relocate retail, office, and recreational
elements. As the development plans unfolded members of the partnership grew concerned about the district lacking a coherent plan and suffering from sprawl. They needed to better assure that the end goal would establish a vibrant, walkable downtown that would attract new people and bring the Midwestern city into the future.

While at Stantec’s Urban Places, we provided planning and urban design leadership, establishing a walkable public realm and helping RDIT direct $30 million in public funds toward placemaking investments that have catalyzed $400 million in private development.

The master plan includes three themes:

Preempt sprawl: Turn a collection of disconnected and car-centric parcel plans into an integrated, walkable urban neighborhood.

Fix the mistakes: The site’s geography, street network, and existing features needed to be re-imagined as part of a coherent whole.

Inspire community leadership: When outside developers defaulted to development models they knew from suburban work, community investors who embraced the vision stepped forward to lead development.

A housing market study uncovered potential demand for upwards of 1,500 units over 10 years, enough to fuel a transformational revitalization of the entire district and bring its sidewalks, parks, and amenities to life.

Speck & Associates and Stantec’s Urban Places won a merit award for this work in CNU’s 2020 Charter Awards.

See the latest news on this plan’s implementation progress here.


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