Knox residents like the historic architecture, small-town feeling, and unique shops of the city’s downtown, but the number of vacant buildings and their overall disrepair remain concerns. That’s according to a recent survey by Ball State’s Department of Urban Planning.
Mayor Dennis Estok shared the results with the Knox City Council last week. “It looks very, very, very promising,” he said. “I just think we’re on the right track with what we’re doing for the residents of our town.”
Over a two-week period, the 20-question survey got 364 responses. That’s more than 10 percent of the city’s population. Of those who responded, over 73 percent said they visit downtown at least once a week. The biggest draws appear to be restaurants, shopping, and government services.
Mayor Estok highlighted the fact that 92 percent of those who responded felt the downtown area is important to the city’s identity. “You know, a lot of people has wrote the downtown off,” Estok said. “You hear the comments, ‘Nobody goes there.’ They do go there. You can see it every day. Ninety-two percent said, ‘Yeah, it is.’ And it is. That’s where Knox began. That’s our downtown. It’s worth trying to save.”
While 69 percent of respondents said the city’s leadership is doing enough to improve downtown, 89 percent said they’d support allocating more of the city’s budget to improvements. Some specific things people think would need improvement include landscaping, street lighting, and seating. As for what sort of businesses the city should be trying to attract, restaurants and clothing stores appear to be among the most popular.
More than half of those who took the survey live five minutes or less from downtown, but 93 percent say they typically drive there. The vast majority said they felt safe in Downtown Knox, but almost as many said they would not consider living there.
The survey is part of the process of creating a downtown revitalization plan and façade upgrade program. The Ball State team is expected to discuss the next steps with city officials sometime in March.