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The City of Shelbyville’s plan to do an extensive study about its East end is an appropriate step toward fulfilling the city’s potential as a destination for both residents and visitors.
This most historic area, somewhat preserved in the blocks from 2nd and 3rd Streets between Main and Washington, has an unexploited opportunity to become the eastern gateway into a thriving and eclectic downtown.
And the timing for this new study could not be more appropriate.
There is a danger that when the Shelbyville Bypass opens later this year and Collins High School opens in 2010, just west of the city the traffic patterns of the populace could become somewhat divided. And Shelbyville could lose some of its natural magnetism to its own constituents.
The eastern and western ends of Shelby County slowly and inexorably may tug the middle of Shelbyville until there is a tear, and history tells us such rips are not easily mended.
To create a plan to improve the East End is a logical first step. This area is in many ways the missing link of an otherwise wonderful downtown corridor.
From the Shelby County Fairgrounds through 4th Street, Main and Washington Streets are the stuff of Norman Rockwell and Sinclair Lewis: stately, traditional and picturesque. Yes, there are blemishes, but these are being treated and already have improved.
But, with a few exceptions, 4th Street is the end of that stateliness.
For many years that eastern sector has been under great change and has struggled for consistency. It has been the home to one iteration of Kroger’s in Shelbyville, to A&P, to Sears, Coca-Cola, to the old Burger Queen, to Convenient, to an historic community baseball park and to some other establishments of less repute.
Even as the Catholic Church of the Annunciation and St. James Episcopal have grown their shares of property ownership, these blocks have continued to be the arena for a fight against a carelessness and seediness that should not be part of such an historical corridor. Not everything is bad, but a new plan surely could help.
We don’t know what sorts of recommendations HNTB, the planning firm the city has hired, will return to the City Council. Based on the work the firm did in Simpsonville, we expect it to be creative and thorough. Based on the $36,280 the City is spending, those expectations should be high.
But here’s one thing we hope will be included: a plan for an honest-to-goodness downtown Civic Center. There is sufficient land in these blocks, and with a new parking lot for the Judicial Center being built at 2nd and Main Streets, a synergy could be developed.
Shelby County and Shelbyville need such a center, so that in the coming years, Collins and Shelby County Highs don’t have to send their students out of the county to graduate or experience more cultural presentations, among other things.
We’re glad Shelbyville is pursuing this study. And we hope it provides a course of thinking from which all of us can learn.