Downtown goal: Be unlike anyone else

Herald Staff Writer

HUNTINGBURG — “Our goal and our vision is not to be like anyone else. Our goal is to be the best Huntingburg we can be.”

That was the message Mayor Denny Spinner delivered to a crowd of nearly 50 people Wednesday night in Old Town Hall just before presenting the city’s new downtown revitalization plan.

Spinner said the need to create a revitalization plan came not from a position of weakness, but from a position of strength and that the city can build on its already-strong foundation, specifically on Fourth Street.

Matt Rueff and Katie Wertz of Developmental Concepts, a firm based in Indianapolis, reiterated that point throughout the evening as they presented the plan to an intrigued public.

“Wow, this is a dynamic downtown,” Rueff said. Because it is already so healthy and vibrant, Rueff said with the implementation of their plan, Huntingburg could become the premier downtown between Evansville and Louisville. “You are so far ahead of most of the cities we come to.”

The process, which began in October, came together through the interviewing of downtown stakeholders and the input of a 15-person steering committee as well as public input received at last night’s meeting, Rueff said.

Wertz, a senior project manager, explained the plan that aims to bring significant gains from Third to Fifth streets as the north-south boundary and Geiger to Van Buren streets as the east-west perimeter.

The first draft of the revitalization plan can be viewed on Huntingburg’s website.

“When starting out, we looked at things that were keeping Huntingburg from becoming ”˜the best Huntingburg it can be,’ as your mayor put it,” Wertz said.

Such items included Fourth Street improvements, including the replacement of a water line from 1896 and improved parking and outdoor seating areas, Market Street improvements to attract even more festivals and foot traffic, utilize existing green space for the benefit of the community, increased signage and several housing options to attract skilled workers to the downtown area. The plan includes public works, as well as public and private collaborations, including a potential bed and breakfast cluster to attract potential visitors.

“What is in this plan are our recommendations, as are the suggested timelines of implementation,” Wertz said, adding that the comment period with the public is an important step in the process. “We want to hear your feedback so we can make changes before this becomes a final draft.”

Several of the projects, including the replacement of the pipeline, could begin immediately.

The comment period will be open for two weeks, during which citizens can call or email comments, questions and suggestions to Matt Rueff or call 317-402-3924 or contact Huntingburg Communication Director Rachel Steckler or call 683-2211.

Once public feedback has been received, Development Concepts will tweak the plan before sending it to the city council next month for consideration.

“I’m very pleased with tonight. The numbers were great for a Wednesday night,” Spinner said, commenting on the full room. “It just shows that there’s a passion for the downtown.”

Spinner said the council will prioritize which projects to take on first by order of importance and feasibility.

“This is a Huntingburg plan,” he said. “It’s a challenging process, but we’ll be better for it.”

Contact Jonathan Streetman.

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