The City of Hammond is working to create a central plaza on the corner of Hohman Avenue and Rimbach Street. Image provided By Jeff Beck & Associates
The City of Hammond is working to create a central plaza on the corner of Hohman Avenue and Rimbach Street. Image provided By Jeff Beck & Associates
HAMMOND — City officials want to breath life into Hammond's downtown by creating Rimbach Plaza, a gathering space for community and commerce.

In 2000 abstract sculptor David Black crafted the "Rotunda Fountain," a circular nest of white stainless steel bars surrounding a deep basin collecting a steady stream of falling water. The piece has sat at 5230 Hohman Avenue since its creation, but with construction on a reimagined downtown Hammond slated to start in the spring, the rotunda must find a new home.

In 2018 the city hired nationally recognized urban planner Jeff Speck to help craft the Hammond Downtown Masterplan. The first phase of the plan involves transforming Hohman Avenue between Sibley and Russell streets into a public space.

In an effort to fill the downtown with pedestrians, the city is straightening out the current swoop that curves Rimbach Street aligning it with Fayette Street. The realignment with discourage speeding and facilitate the creation of Rimbach Plaza, an outdoor gathering space.

The plaza will sit in front of the estimated 208-unit apartment complex planned for an underutilized parking lot off Hohman. While Hammond Director of Economic Development Anne Anderson said the complex is still in the "development agreement phase," the city is already envisioning a bottom floor filled with retail.

The storefronts would frame three sides of the plaza, with the rotunda nestled in the opposite corner. Anderson said she pictures the plaza surrounded by coffee shops, restaurants and other businesses that fulfill day-to-day needs.

"Retail that would serve the new residents that we have living down there," Anderson said "We want people to be able to head out of their unit and get everything they need for the day.”

The housing and the plaza will compliment the South Shore train West Lake expansion, which will include a stop just a few blocks away.

The Hammond City Council held the first and second reading for an ordinance reclassifying the rotunda's current location, currently zoned S-1, Sculpture, to C-3, Central Business District. The council will vote on the ordinance during the Jan. 24 meeting.

The rotunda's final location will be zoned S-1; in the meantime, the rotunda will go into storage. Anderson said the art piece will likely be returned to Hohman Avenue in early 2023.

“The sculpture is a very beautiful and we wanted to make sure it was preserved," Anderson said. "We want the plaza to really designate, ‘hey, you’re in downtown.’ ... We want it to invite people to hop out of their cars and walk around.”

Work on Hohman will also include bringing the street down to one travel lane in each direction with a shared bike lane; 40 spaces of angled parking down the center of Hohman; parallel parking on both sides of the street; 8- and 11-foot sidewalks on either side of Hohman; decorative lighting with banner arms; and large, fast-growing trees along curb lines and down the center of Hohman.

Once established, Anderson said there are a plethora of potential uses for the plaza including a farmers market, concerts and other community events.

"I would love to see benches and tables from the surrounding retail spilling onto the plaza and people hanging out and being social outdoors because we haven’t really had that in our downtown," Anderson said.
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