GRIFFITH | In 2008, Griffith began planning a renaissance of its downtown to bolster existing businesses and attract new enterprises.
A facade program, introduced in 2010, was among the first phases of the downtown’s transformation in the 100 to 400 blocks of Broad Street. Griffith reimbursed a building owner 50 percent of each dollar spent on renovating the facade of the building, up to a maximum of $10,000.
That program has since expanded geographically to include all of Broad Street, 45th Street from Highland east, and along Main Street from Colfax to Cline.
Another program introduced by Griffith economic development officials helps businesses update infrastructure, including HVAC systems, and remodel interior spaces.
In 2011, students in Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning conducted an extensive study of Griffith and held a two-day workshop attended by more than 200 residents.
This charette created a vision in five major areas: transportation, streetscapes, trail systems, community character and wetland development. It also resulted in the Imagine Griffith movement involving residents, business owners and town officials.
Today, Griffith’s economic development efforts extend from downtown to other commercial areas and are garnering results, according to Town Council Vice President Rick Ryfa, R-3rd.
This concerted effort to attract more businesses to “the town that came to the tracks” has resulted in two long-vacant buildings being purchased and re-purposed, Ryfa said.
One is the Service Merchandise building at Griffith Park Plaza along Ridge Road, which has been vacant since August 2008.
An Indianapolis firm, E-Motors, bought the building and is doing a $1 million renovation of the property.
E-Motors is renovating the front section as the showroom for its Internet auto parts business, Ryfa said. The entire back part of the building will be used for storage. There also will be 16,000 square feet of retail space within the building available for lease, he said.
“The family that owns E-Motors liked what they saw in Griffith,” Ryfa said.
Another large building that will see new life is the former Griffith Furniture store on South Broad Street. Vacant since 2007, the 20,000-square-foot, two-story structure will become a billiard venue after a major renovation, he said.
“There will be billiard tables and a bar upstairs and food served downstairs,” Ryfa said. “It will cater to pool leagues and regional tourneys, and bring in people from other Northwest Indiana communities and outside the region.”
This new use of an existing building dovetails with redeveloping South Broad Street, which started last June, he said. South Broad's major reconstruction created a new look for the area.
The $524,000 road project included complete road reconstruction, sidewalks, paver bricks, new curbs and decorative lighting, along with storm and sanitary lines.
“We also purchased five blighted properties along South Broad Street that were longtime eyesores,” Ryfa said. “We demolished them, and that acreage is now available for development.”
Currently a green space, the half-block parcel can be subdivided.
“The town is very flexible for the right business,” Ryfa said.