Look at Sterling Park today and find a green oasis, a place where families picnic, garden and ride bikes.
Just a few years ago, the former factory site was an abandoned building that had become a hub for criminal activity. Like other industrial sites, too, it had its environmental challenges needing to be addressed for community health reasons.
The Elkhart Redevelopment Commission took on the task of reclaiming the LaBour Pump facility on Sterling Avenue. Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Brownfields Program contributed to the demolition and cleanup, and city employees from numerous departments assisted with the vision for a redevelopment project benefitting the entire community.
“If you leave a deteriorating, junky building on site, it’s going to invite problems,” says Kyle Hannon, president of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce and a current city commission member. “Companies look at what goes on in their area, and at a certain point, they don’t think, ‘Let’s expand.’ It’s, ‘Where do I move to?’ That’s why redevelopment like Sterling Park can welcome other, positive expansions.”
Prior to his time on the Redevelopment Commission, Hannon helped with the Sterling Park effort. He hauled materials in his truck as volunteers and city workers repurposed materials from other industrial sites. Solar panels provide energy for lighting, marble slabs have been upcycled for benches, and a community garden was established.
For the efforts to remediate the Sterling site, the city of Elkhart was awarded the Chamber’s Eartha Award in 2013 for exceptional environmental work.
“At the very least, you have a community garden that is the source of fresh food. The MapleHeart (bike) trail extension goes right by the park,” Hannon says. “These are nice attributes we want our community to have. And every time you clean up an eyesore, you make potential investment more welcome. People who are neighbors to those sites are going to benefit.”