Columbia City Crowdfunding Alley Project

Columbia City Crowdfunding Alley Project

The Whitley County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) in partnership with the City of Columbia launched a crowdfunding campaign to create Ohki Alley in downtown Columbia City.

The EDC and the City of Columbia City launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise dollars to bring the alley to life in Columbia City. The project is a “CreatINg Places Campaign,” a program of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA). CreatINg Places is a place-based crowdfunding grant program created between and IHCDA. The purpose is to encourage citizens to actively support community development projects and activities.

The project proposal and grant application were submitted to IHCDA by the Whitley County EDC and City of Columbia City. The project was selected as a finalist to be funded. If the campaign reaches its $50,000 goal, the Ohki Alley project will receive a matching grant of $50,000 from IHCDA.

The vision of Ohki Alley is to bring the alleyway between 116 and 118 W Van Buren Street to life. The alley will close to traffic and create walkable and functional space to connect downtown Columbia City to parking.

Ohki Alley is named after Mr. Shinzo Ohki, a Japanese immigrant, artist and businessman who came to Columbia City in the 1900s. Ohki first came to Seattle at the age of 13, before making the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Diston, Columbia City residents. Ohki became houseboy for the family.

Ohki graduated from Columbia City High School in 1907. After college he returned to Japan to marry is wife, Taka, whom was his next-door neighbor and then they took residency in Columbia City.

As a businessman, Ohki built one of the first fermented soy sauce factories in the U.S.  The Oriental Shoyu Factory, often called “Show-You,” located on Factory Ave., Columbia City. They made fermented soy sauce, mung bean sprouts, chow mein noodles, chop suey and Jiggs’ corn beef and cabbage.

A respected businessman, Ohki was also a very talented artist, co-founder of the Crooked Lake golf course, and very active in the Presbyterian church and Rotary club.

The alley will serve as an honorable tribute to Shinzo Ohki and be a vibrant space for residents and visitors. It will serve as a place for walking from parking to downtown, improving community events, creating new events.

“Downtown Columbia City has so many great things offered throughout the year,” said Chip Hill, Columbia City community development director. “This Ohki Alley project will enhance those events and provide more space for collaboration and community.”

The park will emphasize connectivity, adaptability and exploration and include a small rain garden, flexible seating, communal tables, planters, rhythmic layouts of art and more. To enhance the park, a mural is planned.

“We are grateful to partner with IHCDA on this project because the dollars we raise will go even further with the matching opportunity,” said Riley Hollenbaugh, Whitley County EDC workforce and community development director. “When the community invests in projects like this is shows a true sense of pride and ownership.”

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