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Converse Economic Development Update, Fall 2014


Destination Dining.  With the soon reopening of the Essen Haus under new owner(s) and management, Converse continues to establish itself as a destination point for dining.  Six sit down restaurants and taverns in a town the size of Converse are an indication of several factors:  1) the food selection appeals to a broad range of appetites’.  2) great food.  3) an attitude and culture of friendly service, and 4) location.  The cluster effect of dining options is the foundation of building a minimum critical mass for making downtown a destination. *

Essen Haus.  New owners, Jeremy and Angelica Rickner, along with supportive family members, have worked long and hard this year in making a number of changes to the historic Essen Haus Building.  The Rickners purchased the building last November and hoped to be in it by Jan. 1st, 2014.  Along the way, they had to make some choices with respect to “making do” or “doing it right” with old building issues.  They love this old building and they chose to do it right, addressing each issue as it came up.  You can expect to eventually see a front façade much as it was in the early 1900s.  The food?  Plans are to continue with breakfast and the “down home” food, German style (direction from previous owner, Ruth Herschberger), with a Hispanic twist- Mexican specials.  Angelica is originally from the Los Angeles area; both she and Jeremy promise to be innovative entrepreneurs who have only just begun on this historic building.

National Register of Historic Places.  After a conference call with Pat Jacobs of Architecture Trio in May, the Converse EDC by unanimous vote decided to partner with Indiana Landmarks and apply to place the Jefferson Street Commercial District on the National Register of Historic Places.  This was contingent upon the findings of the Indiana Division of Archeology and Historic Places, that Converse qualified for such an honor.  Rose Wernicke, consultant, is currently engaged as writer, researcher, and historic building detective to make the already strong case for Converse being on the National Register.  A meeting attended by building owners in Converse assured them that this is an honorific listing and not a designation that forces an owner to make changes to their building.  However if an investment is made in a building on the list, a 20% tax credit applies if the changes are in line with the original, architectural appearance of the building on the outside.

Financial Assistance, Converse Redevelopment Commission.  It has been over two years since the financial assistance package for our older buildings was tabled.  The redevelopment commission following a question by a building owner regarding loose façade work falling from a building, conceived this project.  Concerns eventually led to a revitalization study for downtown Converse, which was matched by the Converse EDC.  The redevelopment commission, believed they not only had the funds to remedy the unsafe situation, but that it was in keeping with the state statutes regarding TIF districts.  The controversy centered around how the funds are used, and the obligation of the building owner to comply with the intent of remedying building infrastructure and building codes.  Both viewpoints are now in agreement and this matter will soon be resolved.  This assistance package addresses the plight of older buildings that have basically “good bones” and makes possible the restoration of buildings like Jefferson St. Barbeque, Cahoots Soap Co., and Essen Haus.

Converse Artist Residency Program.  You heard that right.  Avon Waters shared a vision of what this could become over a year ago.  The “Network” of this concept is beginning to grow as he relates the needs and possibilities of what this could mean to building owners, prospective sponsors, and development of organizations like the Hoosier Salon, Indiana Plein Air Painters, and university art programs.  This vision developed out of Avon’s personal interest in Plein Air painting.  A comparison would be to T.C. Steele and similar artists who used the landscape of Brown County.  Central Indiana isn’t usually thought of as being a Brown County, yet the Mississinewa and Wabash River areas would indicate otherwise if you study Avon’s sketches and explore the roads less traveled.  Building owners have an interest in this because of the abundance of second floor space that would make good studios and loft apartments.  If you would like to attend one of Avon’s upcoming informative meetings, please get in touch.

Converse Junction Trail.  The Converse Junction Trail to County Line Road is becoming a reality as land acquisition is finalized.  A number of fund raising activities have begun with the current being t-shirts.  At this point, over 200 have been sold.  Trees, bricks, food, benches, and other items that could care your business or family name will also be available.  Your support will be much appreciated no matter which level you choose to help with.

Dine, Shop, Play.  If you live in Converse or nearby, you ‘ve seen the new digital signage on SR 18, east and west of Converse.  The older message signs lasted for 20 years and will be returned to the north and south locations when painted.  They had served the community of Converse well, communicating upcoming events.  For most of those years, Dave and Karen Haynes voluntarily changed the signs and were caretakers until recently when Chris Bernardin changed the events.  The LED digital signage is state of the art and American made with its own software program.  It is possible to program it for a year and obviously it can be changed in much less time than the older signage.

New Businesses.  Welcome to Converse, Hoosier Imaging!  Formerly on the bypass in Marion, Hoosier Imaging owned by Rob and Stephanie Whelchel, Rob and Stephanie live in Mier and are happy to be in the former Vita-Vet building at 208 E. First St.  Hoosier Imaging besides featuring screen-printing and embroidery, are definitely t-shirt specialists and the creator of the Converse Junction Trail shirts.  Besides moving into her own building this past year, Tisha Prickett has introduced a clothing line for little kids, actually a separate store within Itty Bitty Acres, “Let Them Be Little”.

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Indiana Association of Cities and Towns
Contact Info
210 N Jefferson St
Converse, IN 46919

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