Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Officials dedicate plaza

by on March 02, 2014 2:00 AM

It’s hard to say which of the following two is more noteworthy: that officials dedicated Indiana Borough’s new pedestrian plaza on Saturday afternoon or that officials dedicated Indiana Borough’s new pedestrian plaza during an outdoor program Saturday afternoon.

But no matter which is more relevant, the facts remain that the borough formally opened the North Seventh Street plaza, and the event drew a few dozen people and families, who were enticed outside by the lucky break in the weather and by the free balloons, soft pretzels and hot chocolate at the event.

[PHOTO: Alexander Meckley, a first-year culinary student from Abbottstown, used a rotary tool to carve the IRMC logo into a block of ice Saturday for the dedication ceremony. (Tom Peel/Gazette photo)]

The plaza, called IRMC Park, is perhaps among the most noticeable of improvements made as part of the borough’s ongoing downtown revitalization project.

Through the project, officials are sprucing up Philadelphia Street with new sidewalks, crosswalks and streetlights, better storm drains and improved landscaping. The hope is that improvements will encourage business development and, in turn, lure more people to town.

The park is named after Indiana Regional Medical Center, which supported the project by acquiring the plaza’s naming rights. The hospital paid $200,000 — $40,000 per year for five years — for those rights. That commitment has been fulfilled.

“We’re so proud to be part of this community,” hospital CEO Steve Wolfe told the crowd Saturday. “The hospital is owned by the community, and we believe this … knits us closer together.”

State Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, pointed out that the hospital financially committed itself to the plaza as the economy nose-dived into a recession. Hospital officials, he said, had any number of reasons to back out of it.

“But they kept their commitment to our community because our community is so committed to them,” Reed said.

State Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, echoed those comments, saying that area residents have supported the hospital through donations.

“This is their way of giving back,” he said. “For them to want to be involved in this speaks volumes.”

The crowd also heard from Downtown Indiana Inc. President Tim McQuaide, who said the plaza was made possible because of the foresight of many people.

“I am so very proud of what has been accomplished in our little town with a huge heart,” he said.

Following the dedication, McQuaide said the hope is that the plaza will become a focal point for the community. In fact, organizers of the Indiana County Farmer’s Market already have said they’d like to move the weekly summer market there.

McQuaide said his organization supports that move. He also said he is looking forward to seeing how other community groups might make use of the plaza.

With the plaza finished, Downtown Indiana is now turning its attention to the next stage of the project, which will involve improvements to Philadelphia Street from Sixth to Ninth streets.

Work is expected to start in the next few months and is to be completed next year. The improvements are estimated to cost $3.25 million.

Sam Kusic is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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