Officials from New Buffalo will break ground Friday on a major initiative to improve the downtown area. They’ll be gathering at 1 p.m. for a ceremony to mark the start of a $5 million renovation project set to include infrastructure work, new streetscaping, parking changes, signage, and wider sidewalks along Mechanic and Barton Streets. The city tells us the effort has been in the making for about 13 years, and it’s now being made possible partly with a $1.6 million grant from the Pokagon Fund. City leaders say the work will transform the downtown. The first phase of the project, mostly involving underground work, starts in early March, while the rest of work is slated to start in the fall.