UE Changemaker Challenge idea begins to take shape in downtown Evansville

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Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 7:24 PM CST
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - A dirt lot that used to be Holy Trinity Church at the intersection of Court and NW 3rd St. is set to become much more.

The sewer storage system that has been in the works for a couple of years is set to be finished by Fall of 2023. Officials say the goal of the project is to divert 40 million gallons of sewer water away from the Ohio River and Pigeon Creek.

Currently, the amount of sewage that is flushed into those channels is 300 million gallons per year, and officials are looking to mitigate that.

The purpose of the project is to have the overflow run into the storage system, which over time will be soaked into the sand and gravel below.

”It will be underneath what we call impervious surfaces,” EWSU Executive Director Lane Young said. “Roads, parking lots, concrete, buildings, those are all places where rain water can’t soak into it just has to disperse. So this will collect that, hold it in there and release it over time.”

[TRAFFIC ALERT: Intersection of NW 2nd and Vine St. will be closed for about two weeks as a result of this project.]

When Evansville Water and Sewer Utility is done putting in their new sewer storage system, the patch of land will become ‘Toyota Trinity Storm Water Park.’

Robert Lopez was only a junior at Bosse High School when he was approached to enter the University of Evansville’s Changemaker competition.

“To come from Bosse and to show that sort of low income, poor neighborhood school student, could put a project like this forward,” Lopez said.

The Evansville native had two weeks to run with an idea that one of his teacher’s proposed to him. Something the city of Evansville lacks.

“I mean there’s almost no green space downtown,” Lopez said. “I think the focus has been creating a better environment, and a better space for people.”

The idea won the UE Changemaker Competition, and six years later, is closer to becoming a reality for the city.

Winning the competition earned Lopez a full ride to UE, where he’s been developing the idea up until now, in his senior year.

“When we can have opportunities like this that allow us to bring some aesthetic beauty back, as well as being utilitarian functional for our city, that’s a win win,” Young said.

Young says first and foremost, crews have to finish the multi-million dollar project.

“When their project is done in Fall of 2023, then we can start putting amenity items on top,” Lopez said.

As Lopez looked over his work over these last six years, he says any student can make a difference if they want to.

“The fact that I care enough, and I know so many other students in my position care enough, they just don’t feel like they have the outlet,” Lopez said. “Find it, get attached to it, and it will take you up.”

Lopez says he is just over 25% done with raising the money necessary for this project. He needs around $700,000 to fully fund the project, money he’s hoping to get from bigger corporations that look to join in on the project.

He says if you’d like to make a donation to help the project come to fruition, you can visit the Center for Innovation and Change’s website, or give them a call at the number listed.