The most significant of these will be the widening of Church and Union streets from four to five lanes as they curve south of Lincoln Way to Ninth Street.
Mayor Dave Wood spoke about the projects Monday night in his annual "State of the City" address.
"Infrastructure is the best way we can affect economic development," he said in an interview with The Tribune earlier in the day. He said he titled his report "Shaping Mishawaka's Future" because, while other cities may be in a reactive mode, Mishawaka is unique in that it is being "proactive."
"We feel like we're doing some pretty big things in planning," he said.
At the top of that list, he said, is his plan to make the city debt-free by the end of 2014 -- for the first time in decades. It could help the city to operate more efficiently and lower property taxes, he said. And that, he believes, could entice businesses to invest.
The Church/Union project will mean a facelift for the railroad underpass there, too. New landscape and lighting and a new pedestrian walk with metal fencing will give it a similar look to the Main Street underpass just north of downtown, fixing what Wood sees as this underpass's "cold and industrial" look.
This will be the next phase of the city's annual Main Street widening project.
The underpass would remain just four lanes wide. But Church to the north and Union to the south would add turn lanes. The new turn lane at Church and Lincoln Way, he noted, is "sorely needed for safety."
The plans also factor in the extra traffic of city maintenance trucks and plows in and out of the city's new home for Central Services, at 700 S. Union St., when the city finishes renovations there to the former Scott Brass building, possibly by the end of 2013.
As the city rips out the existing pavement on Church and Union, Wood said, it hopes to solve the "weeping" that consistently leaves a pool of water on the pavement at the bottom of the underpass. He said the water is coming from the ground or drainage below.
The widening means that the city will have to acquire some adjoining property. The land owners have been invited to a public information meeting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library, 209 Lincoln Way W.
On the north side, the city hopes to start building a connector road for three-quarters of a mile between Fir Road and Capital Avenue this year. It will open up 240 acres of vacant land to development, an area Wood describes as three times the size of the University Park Mall and sitting just north of the Indiana Toll Road, or as the mayor calls it, "the Main Street of America."
To the south, the city also will widen the Bremen Highway from four to five lanes between the U.S. 20 bypass and Ireland Road, by the Meijer store.
Wood said he's given the go-ahead to seek an overpass rather than a more costly underpass for the McKinely Avenue railroad crossing -- a troublesome, two-lane bottleneck. The year ahead will be spent seeing which option the county prefers and working on an agreement with the county in this joint project.
Big park ideas
The new campus for the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care is quickly taking shape on the banks of the St. Joseph River, between Cedar Street and Central Park. The framework for the campus' first buildings has already risen, due to be finished and occupied by late summer.
The city's Riverwalk will be extended this year along Central Park and in front of the hospice campus, ending just a block shy of Cedar.
Meanwhile, the city is scoping out how it will overhaul Central Park itself, knowing that it wants to remove the seldom-used softball field and tennis courts and that a new set of playground equipment would be installed. Concepts so far include new shelters and walking paths.
But Wood said the city is looking beyond just Central: "Where do people want to play? We're looking at the park system as a whole and how best to serve the public."
Safety and growth
Here are other tidbits (though not a complete list) that Wood shared:
- A total of 27 surveillance cameras and a handful of call boxes will be installed this year along the city's Riverwalk in the wake of vandalism in 2012.
- The city fire department responded to 100 more calls in January, compared with the same month a year earlier, Wood said. He credits the new firefighters contract that union and city officials reached, which began Jan. 1, allowing the city to staff a third ambulance crew at all hours. About 80 percent of all fire department calls are medical.
- The city saw construction begin on 10 new commercial buildings in 2012, up from four in 2011. And permits were issued to build 28 new homes last year, up from the 22 homes built in both 2011 and 2010 but down from the 47 homes built in 2008.
- On April 1, the city will launch Cityworks software that will allow staff to track work orders, whether it's for a pothole or a busted water line. Wood foresees efficiencies as city departments communicate better and track issues. By 2014, it will allow the public to report issues via the Internet.
- The Mishawaka Police Department's DARE program, normally offered in the fifth grade, expanded this past year to include the eighth grade and a high school refresher course.
- Mishawaka Utilities electrical workers have begun an electric safety program in fifth-grade classrooms.
Staff writer Joseph Dits: