A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday for the Courthouse Plaza on the county courthouse lawn at the corner of Buffalo and Center streets. County Administrator Marsha McSherry (C) cut the ribbon surrounded by county and city officials and representatives of the Warsaw Community Development Corp., WCDC board members and donors. Photo by David Slone
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday for the Courthouse Plaza on the county courthouse lawn at the corner of Buffalo and Center streets. County Administrator Marsha McSherry (C) cut the ribbon surrounded by county and city officials and representatives of the Warsaw Community Development Corp., WCDC board members and donors. Photo by David Slone
Over fifty patrons donated toward the Courthouse Plaza last fall, and Monday a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held with representatives of the county, city, Warsaw Community Development Corp. and local businesses present.

“This represents really the best-in-class partnerships for our community where we come together and get really cool things done for the betterment of our community, not just the county employees but the community as a whole,” said WCDC President and CEO Rob Parker.

He said the project had no impact to local taxpayers as half of the funds were donated and the rest were matched by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority through its Patronicity program.

“That program has been so awesome helping us do a cool little project like this and enhancing our community,” Parker said. “That’s what I love to see is this partnership where we can work together and do something that beautifies our downtown.”

County Commissioner Cary Groninger agreed with Parker’s comments.

“We’re able to work together and accomplish the project that’s going to be good for the whole community, not just the county, not just the city, but something everybody can utilize,” Groninger said, noting that taxpayer dollars were not used.

“So those type of things that we have a project we can work together on, that’s what we want to try and do and look forward to working on more projects with the Chamber,” he said.

Parker said the plaza “creates this great gathering place. We have a place for people to sit down during their lunchtime if they want to come out, eat or picnic. There will be picnic tables out here. So it creates a space for people to gather and hang out and really just one more place for people to feel connected to the community.”

From the county’s side, Groninger said the county has had a big wellness initiative this past year to try to get its employees outdoors and active.

“It’s just another way to get them out of their offices, get them outside and enjoy the nice weather. It gives them a nice area with picnic tables to do that and enjoy some time outside and refresh a bit,” Groninger said.

Parker said the plaza enhances the whole viewpoint of the county courthouse square. The plaza is at the corner of Buffalo and Center streets.

“I think if you go around the state and look at other courthouses, you’ll see a retaining wall a lot of times and people will hang out there, so we never had anything like that. The tables were out on the lawn, and you had to move them around, and the grass didn’t look good. So this creates a home for the picnic tables. People know where they can go and have some place to eat,” Parker said.

He said at events like First Friday, it will provide a place for people to sit, relax and eat. The wall around the plaza was intended for people to sit on.

Anderson Property Management Solutions did the work on the plaza. They were still finishing up the project Monday morning.

“It looks great. Anderson has done a great job and we can’t thank the sponsors and the donors enough and this is really a community effort,” Parker said.

He said the plaza could inspire more similar projects.

“We just have to find what the next thing is that we want to tackle, and I think the community is supportive of those kind of projects. Any time we get a 50-50 match, that’s a good deal,” Parker said.

He said Patronicity is a “really cool way” to do these kind of community projects. It provides state grant dollars, but communities get to decide what projects they want to tackle.

The Courthouse Plaza is the second Patronicity project completed in downtown Warsaw. The first one was the alleyway project between city hall and Three Crowns Coffee about two years ago.

“That was the first one and it was very successful. This one was next, so once we’re done here, we’ll find hopefully another project the community wants, that businesses want and are willing to support it. If they do that, we’re moving forward,” Parker said.

He said a good number of the donors gave $20, $30 or $40, but many also gave significant dollars.

The plaza project is directly across city hall.

Mayor Joe Thallemer said it “absolutely” improves and beautifies the downtown.

“I think the block goes well with the limestone here at the courthouse. It’s kind of right at the poll position downtown where most of the activities occur at this intersection, so this continues to add to amenities downtown,” Thallemer said.

He said it gives folks downtown another place to go outside.

“Both projects were projects that were grant projects, donation projects, which makes it even nicer. These were things the community said it wanted and they supported it, and that’s the best part. That, to me, shows how important these projects are,” he said.

Thallemer said they hoped to get some food vendors out there, maybe involve the downtown restaurants in that, and “give folks an option to eat outside when the weather is a little bit nicer.”