It’s a little known fact that the design process for the revitalization plan to refurbish the Hope town square began nearly 20 years ago.

When landscape architect Joe Dodd was still attending Purdue University as an undergrad in 2001 he was approached by the late Don Dillman about offering some design ideas for the Town Square.

Dillman and other community members were considering making improvements to the park and were looking for assistance in coming up with a workable design.

The opportunity presented itself early on in Dodd’s schooling, so suffice to say he brought back a design that gave Dillman and the others more than they anticipated.

“The design was ambitious,” Dodd admits. “I had all these grandiose ideas for the park, including fountains and big plazas, and on a small town budget that isn’t really doable. They were nice about it. They said, ‘Thanks these are great ideas’ and shelved it.”

A few years later, Dodd’s design was revisited.

This time, Dodd was taking an independent study course that allowed him the latitude, resources and time to revisit the design and make adjustments.

There was some back and forth and the design became more refined and doable, Dodd says.

“Then, from there same thing, ‘This looks great,’” Dodd says. “And it was dropped in the water for a while. And that was about the time Don’s health was declining.”

Flash forward 15 years, following a comprehensive study of the square, conducted by another landscape architect, the town and board didn’t seem satisfied with the findings or outcome, Dodd says.

It was then that Dodd connected with Susan Thayer-Fye, the executive director of Main Street of Hope.

“She asked if I would like to revisit my design and that is how I came back in on the project with a pro bono type contract,” Dodd says. “I came in and took the ideas of what they were trying to do on this go around that aligned with their budget and funding. So this whole project was built around the funding available.”

This time around, Dodd admits, he used a more practical approach.

Much of the square’s design criteria were grounded in the code and regulation for ADA access. That means the widths of the trails, the grade and slope were all taken into consideration, Dodd says.

“In terms of the design, it was more of just connecting all these main features in the park and trying to do it in a way that made sense and provided areas for seating,” Dodd says. “So we created a small little plaza, a flattened area, next to the bandstand. The idea was people with wheelchairs or strollers can post up in the paved area and everyone else can sit on the lawn.”

The other main design element was connecting the shelter house on a north/south access to the pathway, which essentially creates an internal spine that runs through the park connecting its main elements, including the playground and trails, Dodd says.

And, it is a given that one of Hope’s staple events served as motivation for overall design, Dodd adds.

“Some of the inspiration designing how everything laid out in the park was kind of around how these booths would lay out and how people would navigate during a big event like Heritage Days,” Dodd says.

While Dodd, who resides in San Diego, was working to get the main design elements established, Hope resident Rhett Whittington was working on signage designs.

Whittington knew going in that the idea of the intended design would recapture the heritage of Hope and ambiance of the square.

“I’m not used to such a process where so many people have input and want so many changes,” Whittington says. “I kept kicking ideas back to them and crossing my fingers it would be the final one. I would end up having to tweak something, send it back and cross my fingers.”

After about a month of back and forth, Whittington says he was relieved a final design of a gentleman adorned with a top hat while seated in a horse and buggy, which is reminiscent of Hope’s deep heritage, was chosen.

The self-described history buff says Fye’s and the design committee’s familiarity with his work, which includes ad work for HSJ Online, is why he was brought on the project.

“It is kind of funny,” Whittington says. “It isn’t a huge leap because with my small town roots I am familiar with their art style and what they were looking for. I think Susan had an idea I would know what to do by drawing on Hope’s past.”

Dodd and Whittington both say they were mindful of keeping true to the design committee’s vision of recreating Hope’s town square of 1910.

As a graphic designer, Whittington says he initially had some reservations about the project.

“I was a little nervous really because I’d never done anything big and permanent like that,” he says. “I typically do comic book art and cartoony kind of stuff. So this was a chance for me to stretch my graphic design muscles I hadn’t used in a while.”

Now that the project is complete, both gentlemen say they are anxious to see the Square this spring as the weather warms and the square is officially opened to the public.

“I was really happy with how everything turned out,” Dodd says.