Lakeville braces for U.S. 31 reopening with new streetscape

Lakeville, Ind. Lakeville residents are bracing for the changes that will come with the reopening of U.S. 31 between South Bend and Plymouth later this month.

The rerouting of the highway around Lakeville is expected to bring a dramatic decrease in traffic volume through the town.

'It's caused us apprehension," said Dennis Deniger of the Lakeville Economic Development Commission. 'We want to get it completed to find out what's going to happen to our town."

Many residents have expressed concern over the years that the lack of traffic will hurt local businesses. Deniger said the big question is whether much of the traffic actually contributes to the local economy or just passes through on its way to other towns.

"I'm one of those 50 percent who say the town is going to be very much improved as our truck traffic is eliminated and pedestrian traffic is improved," Deniger said.

In an effort to prepare for the changes ahead, members of the Lakeville Business Owner's Association have promoted an Indiana Main Street Initiative to revitalize the downtown.

'We do think there is going to be an impact," said Ken Jones, President of JPR, the consulting firm that planned the streetscape project. "The town sort of looked into the future and said, 'You know, we probably need to look at what we need to do to upgrade the appearance of downtown."'

With calmer traffic in the area, the town is hoping to capitalize on pedestrian access to local business. The main priority will be improving sidewalks.

"Then, overtime, there will be landscape improvement, lighting improvements, access to stores will improve and hopefully that will trigger some economic development in the downtown," Jones said.

The project cost is estimated at under $700,000. Eighty percent will be federally funded and the town will pay for the remaining portion of the bill. INDOT will likely help the city put the project up for bid in July 2015.

Some resident believe the US-31 reopening will provide an opportunity to make Lakeville a "destination town."

'What we're looking for is to have people more on their bicycles, " Deniger said. "We're looking at putting in some shops where maybe we can have ice cream and coffee get the community that we've not been able to have."

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