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  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Wells County Courthouse in Bluffton is under construction as crews work on the outdoor plaza. Once complete, the plaza will serve as a gathering place.  

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Wells County Courthouse in Bluffton is under construction as crews work on the outdoor plaza. Once complete, the plaza will serve as a gathering place.

Sunday, June 23, 2019 1:00 am

Our towns

Parks department 'jewel in our town'

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

About Bluffton

Population: 10,110 (2018 census estimate)

County: Wells

Founded: 1838

• Designated years ago as the Parlor City of Indiana for its beautiful and well-kept city. The term came from the 1900s when the parlor was usually the cleanest room in a home and was where guests were entertained.

Traffic bustles along Bluffton's Main Street as rush hour begins to take hold. 

The hustle makes this community of about 10,000 seem larger.

But the quiet of a nearby pedestrian walk offers a serene, lush look at the Wabash River. At Kehoe Park stands a band shell that is home to Bluffton's free summer concert series.

Bluffton is thriving, Michael Lautzenheiser of Bluffton Now said. The city has beautiful amenities and an extremely business-friendly climate, he said. 

“I think we have a really good business and industrial climate where we have low taxes and reasonable amenity costs for sewer and water,” Lautzenheiser said. “One of the main things about Bluffton, we're one of the first gigabit cities, which means we have fast and reliable fiber internet throughout the town, which is a big benefit.”

Bluffton's downtown area is changing, as well, Lautzenheiser said.

Revitalization of downtown began about five years ago with the city's Community Reinvestment Program, which offered $100,000 a year in matching grants for downtown building owners looking to make improvements. 

“We also started the Parlor City Plaza project, which is under construction right now,” Lautzenheiser said. “It's a multiuse gathering space next to our county courthouse. The goal is to attract more people to downtown to help with businesses that are coming in and to attract more investment.” 

Much of an area near Bluffton's historic brownstone courthouse, topped by a unique parapet and clock tower, is roped off as crews work on the outdoor plaza. Once complete, the plaza is meant to serve as a public gathering space and a source of civic pride.

“The jewel in our town is our parks and recreation department,” said Mayor Ted Ellis, adding that to be successful, Bluffton offers more than the basic city services.

One program is Bluffton's Rock Steady program, which helps people with Parkinson's through noncontact boxing enriched fitness classes, Ellis said. The Bluffton Parks Department is currently adding a building to help house that program, which draws participants from Ohio and the greater Bluffton area, Ellis said. 

But when it comes to economic development, the city and county work hand-in-glove to attract, retain and take care of the businesses that are located in Bluffton.

“It's not uncommon to get the movers and shakers together in one big room (when a new business comes to town) and make the presentation,” Ellis said. “In a lot of communities, it's more difficult than that.”

That sense of community, that camaraderie, characterizes what Bluffton's all about. 

dgong@jg.net