With the completion of the Hope Town Square Revitalization Project in the rearview, area residents and Main Street of Hope couldn’t be happier with the final result.

High atop Main Street’s agenda with the revitalization project was the replacement of 43 streetlights around the square.

“I’m not exactly sure what year they were installed but they were more than 25 years old and they couldn’t get parts for them anymore,” says Susan Thayer-Fye, executive director for Main Street of Hope. “They were not in good shape or working well.”

Today, the Square is illuminated by heavy duty streetlights equipped with LED lights.

Keeping with the town’s historic vibe was key to landing the grant, Fye says.

“We had people on the Main Street committee who were really pushing to keep it historically correct, but also because the Main Street District on the Square sits in the historic district of Hope,” Fye says. “I really don’t believe we would have gotten funding had we not gone with a design similar to that.”

Aside from lighting was the more expensive component of the project, which was creating ADA compliant pathways throughout the Square.

Anyone who has been on the Square, especially when it is raining, will attest the pathways weren’t exactly easy to navigate. And if you had a stroller or wheelchair, it was difficult at best, Fye says.

“Right now you can enter the square on any of the four sides with a wheelchair, walker or stroller,” Fye says. “And you can go immediately onto some pathway and meander on the Square and get to everything inside the Square without doing what I called ‘motor cross training’ in the mud.”

In addition to the new pathways, there are now two loading/unloading concrete areas where visitors can drive from the west side of the Square to the shelter house and unload supplies, Fye says.

“I think those two things long term will be very helpful to anyone using the square and I know that square gets used a ton,” Fye says.

Brown, who serves as secretary of Main Street of Hope and design committee chairperson, says her role has been to offer style and design tips during the initial creative process. Overall, the project has certainly met and exceeded expectations, she says.

“We did the initial study and there was a lot in that initial study that we didn’t feel was important and so we whittled it away,” she says. “We focused on what we felt was important and what we wanted to see happen.”

Nearly every inch of the Square, with the exception of the existing playground, was torn up during construction. As the newly planted grass seed takes root the committee is waiting to see what the square looks like before making additional decisions about landscaping.

“I think they will see what it is like in the spring and decide what needs to happen then,” Fye says.

Those who visit the square will notice not all changes were confined to the square itself. Main Street also used a portion of the project’s grant money to refurbish the sidewalks outside businesses lining the square.

Historically accurate benches to match the 1910 streetlight theme were purchased along with new trashcans with stealthy, subtle cigarette butt holders attached.

“They are discretely attached to the trashcans so that they’re there and are the correct minimum distance from the front door for smokers,” Fye says. “But you don’t really notice them and it is just a cleaner look.”

Visitors to Hope will also discover new Historical District signage near the north end of the square on State Road 9, as well as on the south end of the road near the school, Fye says.

“The signs, which feature a horse and buggy, were designed by Hauser graduate Rhett Whittington, who also did a sign design for the Rural Mail Carriers’ Museum,” Fye adds.

From construction to completion the town of Hope has been more than supportive of Main Street’s efforts, Brown says. In fact, she has received very little in the way of concerns or complaints from area residents.

“The only complaint I’ve had is we didn’t update the playground and get more equipment for toddlers,” Brown says.

She admits she would have liked to have secured additional funding for some outdoor restrooms, but it wasn’t possible. She says the town is still looking into possibly tackling that as a separate project down the road. However, she anticipates it could get complicated as it would raise questions as to who is responsible for maintaining and fixing the facilities should they be added.

Looking back, it would seem the most challenging part of the project was the overall time invested, Brown says, because in the beginning there was nothing but meetings.

“For a couple of years I was wondering if the project was going to go anywhere because we were sitting around talking about things,” Brown says. “I was so excited when we got the grant funding and it went from talking about something to actually some action taking place.”

Hauser graduate Joe Dodd, who she asked to create the design for the refurbished square, donated his time and that was the “key jumping off space and helped get the grant,” Fye says.

Fye stresses that the project was truly a collaborative effort and says the public may not realize what it took to make the new square a reality.

“In order to get this grant through the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, we had to come up with 20 percent matching funds,” Fye says. “This was a county-wide effort to get the funds together in order to even apply for the state grant.”

Adding to monies raised by Main Street of Hope were substantial donations by the Columbus Visitor’s Center, The Heritage Fund of Bartholomew County, and the Custer & Nugent Foundation, Fye says.

While Fye wraps up her time with Main Street of Hope tying up loose ends and finishing grant reports, she says she is very happy with the project’s end result.

“If you look at the square with the pathways and streetlights and didn’t know the difference you would think it had been that way forever,” Fye says.

“They are subtle structural changes that help people access the square. We wanted for everyone who wanted to be in the square doing things and attending events to be able to get there.”