Newly redesigned area to open to public in July as Burkhart Plaza


After a weekslong delay related to the COVID-19 pandemic, contractors recently have ramped up construction on the St. Louis Avenue streetscape project in downtown Seymour.

Recently, workers installed porch-like swings and interactive musical chimes and drums and completed a full-depth asphalt replacement of St. Louis Avenue from Jeffersonville Avenue to South Chestnut Street.

The project is now around 75% complete, said Leslie Jones, project engineer with HWC Engineering.

The new design makes the area more handicap-accessible by eliminating the pit area with picnic tables that previously were there.

General contractor Schutte Excavating is putting some of the final touches on the $1 million project over the next couple of weeks and plans to have the park ready to open July 1.

Already in place are new decorative brick pavers, a new sidewalk, a concrete seat wall, more than 20 new trees and perennials and other landscaping features.

An electrical upgrade also has been completed to provide improved access to hookups for food trucks and other vendors for festivals and events along with electric car charging stations.

Some of the final items to be added will be a Seymour sign, bike racks, landscaping stones and sod, which have yet to be delivered because of the coronavirus. The project is about a month behind due to COVID-19 travel restrictions that were put in place in Decatur County, where Schutte is located.

The Seymour Parks and Recreation Department plans to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony in July to officially open the park to the public, said Parks Director Stacy Findley.

At that time, the former One Chamber Square will be renamed Burkhart Plaza in memory of former Seymour Mayor John Burkhart, who led the city from 1990 to 2003. He died at the age of 80 on Dec. 13, 2019.

“I’ve reached out to the Burkhart family and they are super excited and flattered and honored that we reached out to them,” Findley said.

With funding for the project coming from several different sources, it has been a true community collaboration. The project was started under former Mayor Craig Luedeman and former Seymour Main Street Executive Director Becky Schepman.

Seymour Main Street has contributed $5,000 to the project. The rest is being paid for through a $590,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. Another $430,000 is coming from the Seymour Redevelopment Commission and $10,000 from the Community Foundation of Jackson County.

Findley said the parks department may have to fund installation of some gates to help close off the street and the alley behind the Seymour Community Center during festivals and events.

“The park has a great design,” she said. “It is perfect for downtown activities such as festivals, classes and even the farmers market.”

She hopes to see people take advantage of the outdoor seating at the park.

“It would be a great place to sit and read on your lunch break or work outdoors,” she said. “The park will be unique and have a different feel than our existing parks. It will include music and sensory features that can be used by all ages.”

The addition of Burkhart Plaza is a symbol of Seymour’s growth and opportunities as a community, she added.

“I am enthusiastic about getting folks outdoors, active and engaged,” she said. “Burkhart Plaza could encourage new programming opportunities for our department as well.”

Bri Roll, representing Seymour Main Street, said that organization is thrilled with the progress that has been made.

“Although the project faced delays due to COVID-19, Schutte Excavating has been incredibly committed to getting the job done as soon as possible,” she said. “Main Street is thankful for the opportunity to lead the transformation of this public space into an inclusive and accessible venue in partnership with the city of Seymour, the Community Foundation of Jackson County and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.”

The area is still owned and maintained by the city. One Chamber Square was originally completed in the fall of 1987 as part of an overall $1 million project that included sidewalk and curb repair and new trees in the downtown.

Mayor Matt Nicholson said he is looking forward to seeing people use the park as they decide to spend more time in the downtown.

“The park will be a welcome addition to downtown Seymour,” he said. “The design should create a place for people to come and sit awhile.”

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