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Officials debate future of Carthage lot on historic square - KOAM TV 7

Officials debate future of Carthage lot on historic square

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City of Carthage and Jasper County officials are currently debating the future of an empty lot on the southeast corner of the historic square.

Business owners in the area would like to see improvements aimed at increasing the tourism industry, which they say is a huge economic driver in the community.

The southeast corner of square has been left dilapidated after the former Sassy Spoon restaurant burned down in 2013.

"It's been kind of an eyesore, definitely affects the look of the square," said Keith McBride, Carthage resident.

The county purchased the lot a couple weeks ago with plans to install an underground piping system to bring a geothermal heating and cooling system to the courthouse, also creating the possibility to bring additional parking spaces in the process.

"We originally thought that we'd make a parking lot out of it, and we still might, but the city is wanting us to do some other things with it," said John Bartosh, Jasper County commissioner.

The lot is located within the city's historic district and requires committee approval prior to any construction.

"We're hoping for a little pocket park, some grass, some seating areas, maybe a pergola so that we could have our farmer's market there in the summertime," said Ed Hardesty, City Council member.

Because of debris from the former restaurant buried beneath the lot, officials say it would not be a viable location to construct a new building.

"A lot of us down here on the square, the business people, don't actually want to see a parking lot," Hardesty said. "We think that would detract from the historic value and the historic look for our tourism industry that comes into town."

County officials say they are willing to work closely with the city to determine the best use of the site.

"We'll try to make everybody happy if we can," Bartosh said.

And residents say any change would be an improvement.

"I'd like a park, but anything is better than what's out there right now," McBride said.

Officials say the first step will be to fund the installation of the geothermal system.

Then, the city's Planning, Zoning and Historic Preservation Commission must first approve any plans before further work at the site can begin.
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