If you’ve taken a stroll through downtown Seymour lately, you may have noticed a subtle change.
Seymour Main Street has begun replacing older benches made of recycled material with new, bigger and sturdier black steel benches that pay homage to the city’s history and help provide a theme and identity for the downtown.
A total of 20 benches and six new wayfarer signs are being installed along with six new bike racks to help visitors better navigate and enjoy the area. The first round of benches is on the sidewalks on both sides of Chestnut Street.
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The benches feature a backrest with a circular emblem that has a train in the center with the words “Seymour” below it and “1852” above it to represent the year the city was founded.
Designed by Jim Noelker with Westwind Sign Co. and built by Crane Hill Machine and Fabrication Inc., both local businesses, the benches cost around $16,000.
The wayfarer signs will direct travelers and locals to downtown shops and attractions, said Becky Schepman, executive director of Seymour Main Street.
“We will have signs pointing toward the visitor center, antiques, food and shopping,” she said. “It will direct them in the general direction for their needs.”
Most of the signs will be located along U.S. 50 with one being at the corner of Sixth Street (State Road 258) and Ewing Street (State Road 11).
“I have sent the proposed locations to the Indiana Department of Transportation and am waiting to hear back from them,” Schepman said. “As soon as we do, the city will be placing the signs. They are ready to go.”
To help fund the project, Seymour Main Street recently accepted a $5,659 Downtown Enhancement Grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.
Matching funds were supplied by the city and Schneck Medical Center. A portion of funds from the annual Dancing with the Seymour Stars event also is being used for the benches, bike racks and signage program.
This is the second consecutive year Seymour has received the state grant for a total of $11,318.
Benches were first put in the downtown area in the mid-1980s as part of a city streetscape project.
Around the early 2000s, they were replaced with 63 benches made of recycled plastic with a cast iron frame. Dollars generated from the city’s recycling department helped cover that expense.
As the old benches are replaced, they will be relocated to the city’s parks.
Six bicycle racks also will be placed in the downtown to encourage people to ride their bikes to work. Four others were purchased by the Schneck Foundation to put on the hospital’s property.
In 2015, Seymour Main Street paid for new street signs to be installed in and around the downtown. The signs cost just more than $31,000 and are a visible way to help designate the downtown shopping district and to give the area a unified appearance.
Schepman said the improvements are important.
“Our downtown is worth investing in,” she said. “We have beautiful buildings and many great businesses, and we are growing and changing every day.”
There is a lot of interest in the downtown, and Seymour Main Street is committed to preserving it and promoting economic growth, she added.
“These little additions are reminders that we are just a few steps closer in the right direction,” she said. “We want to encourage pedestrians to walk and use the benches and bike racks as they come to visit the shops downtown. We really envision it as a gathering place for families as it continues to grow.”
Seymour Main Street also is working on projects to plant flowers in pots located downtown, revamp One Chamber Square, continue to help restore downtown business fronts by providing funding for new awnings, signs and façade work and display more artwork downtown.