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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Does Anderson need its own Convention Center?

Every city has a heart!

In architecture my desire is always to find a building’s heart. Finding the heart means finding the thing that makes the building unique, its signature, something that gives it presence, its soul. The guiding principles that lead me are executable anywhere there is a need for a plan or blueprint. From conceptualization to a tangible facility the theme that drives design and gives a building life is its ability to showcase its heart.

There is a life-giving force in every community. This is a force that stands out as a rallying point for people to believe in and stand behind. A place where regardless of contrary influences proves out to be self-sustaining and beneficial to the livelihood of its citizens.

What is it for our community!? Is it Anderson University or Hoosier Park? Is it downtown Anderson or the west side? How about the Interstate 69 corridor or Scatterfield Road or even our school system or our churches? Is it our current and past professional athletes, musicians, or our location to Indianapolis? Or maybe it is our past? What is the center of our community? I would like to offer some food for thought.

What if our local mall was that rallying place? Not as it exists, but with the addition of a convention center, a conference center, or meeting halls. As a place where a joint effort between our local university/ Church of God and Hoosier Park teamed up to bring together the two distant anchors of Scatterfield Road? It might just be the place where this community starts to rally as it takes on the Goliath of everything that represents the past.

There is a need for a rallying breakthrough. Yes, of course we need jobs, but what about national companies acknowledging that we shop at their stores by investing in our community. Do you remember when Starbucks came to town? I rarely go there, but I remember thinking “Anderson has a Starbucks” — really?!

A food and beverage tax of 1 percent was initially started to build a convention center downtown. The effort failed! The money ($500,000 to $1 million raised annually) now goes toward economic development in our community. Convention centers need a collective body of activities surrounding them to be viable. Market studies have been done for downtown.

I wonder what a study with the mall as its location would yield. With an $8 million to $12 million price tag it would have to be a joint effort financially, but could benefit this community with business conferences, church conventions, potential hotel development, national retailers, car shows, semi pro teams, Colts and Pacers rallies, just to name a few activities.

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