A dedication ceremony for the Indiana Regional Medical Center Park, featuring an ice sculpture competition, occurred Saturday as part of a continuing effort to revitalize downtown Indiana.
The block of Seventh Street that has been under construction since 2008 is now a renovated park, including brick sidewalks and an archway overlooking the new staircase on the hill just beyond Water Street.
The Indiana Regional Medical Center sponsored the project and made significant financial contributions, a tall order during the recession of the late 2000s when the project began.
Mark Richards, vice president of marketing and public relations at Indiana Regional Medical Center, said he hopes the park will draw more attention to local businesses and draw patrons back to the area.
“It’s more about being part of a vibrant economy than anything else,” Richards said.
The Renaissance Indiana Project, a partnership formed between the Foundation for Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the Borough of Indiana, Indiana County and Downtown Indiana to benefit local business through the renovation of blocks on Philadelphia Street, was also instrumental in financing the park’s construction.
Hastie Kinter, chairwoman of the Renaissance Indiana Project, said this project was one of the focal points of the downtown renovation project.
“It started in 2005 when a group of community people got together and thought about revitalizing different parts of downtown Indiana,” Kinter said. “Making North Seventh Street a people-place was what they wanted.”
Kinter said events for the new park had already been lined up, including a jazz festival in May. In addition, this summer’s Taste and Tour of downtown Indiana will start at IRMC Park, and screenings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” will also be held there.
Kinter also said that the project as a whole is nearing completion, and in the coming spring parts of Ninth Street and Sixth Street will also be renovated, the final phase of Renaissance Indiana.
The dedication was a friendly celebration of community, with Indiana citizens turning out to enjoy their new public space, free food and coffee from Giant Eagle, and a unique contest sponsored by local businesses.
Members of the IUP Ice Carving Club, all of whom are culinary students from IUP’s Punxsutawney campus, prepared different sculptures of the logos of several businesses in the area.
The blocks of ice were then transported around town by members of the IUP football team. Indiana natives were asked to walk around town and vote on their favorite sculpture.