Study looks at vitality of city since Stellar

Photos courtesy City of Huntingburg

 

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — Huntingburg has benefited from the Stellar Communities program, beyond the financial benefits, according to a recent study.

The study on Stellar’s impact on the city was done by the Sagamore Institute, which compiles annual reports on the Stellar program for the state; the latest 2017 report was released in March.

Huntingburg Mayor Denny Spinner referenced the study in his State of the City address Friday.

“The projects that are and will be completed will bring significant change to our city,” Spinner said. “But the Stellar effect goes beyond the bricks and sticks.”

Stellar is a multi-agency partnership run by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The program recognizes and assists areas with community and economic development projects and what the next steps are through partnerships. The program changed this year to make awards to regional collaborations instead of individual communities. The 2018 designees will be announced in September.

Huntingburg sought to accomplish nine improvements as part of the Stellar program: redevelop the St. Joseph’s Hospital campus into a senior center, create a maintenance/emergency shelter facility, build a park at Fourth and Market streets, replace an old cast-iron water main under Fourth Street, extend Ninth Street, reconstruct 14th Street, construct workforce housing, build the Heritage Trail walking path and create community gateways.

The Sagamore Institute’s case study on Huntingburg, one of 12 case studies done in the report, looked at indicators of community vitality as of 2013 — prior to the city’s 2014 designation — and as of 2016, two years after the designation.

The majority of the indicators were positive. The population had grown by 6.5 percent, from 6,022 in 2013 to 6,414 in 2016. The percentage of families living below the poverty line decreased by 1 percent.

The percentage of home ownership decreased slightly, by four-tenths of a percent. And educational attainment, or the percentage of those receiving a bachelor’s degree or higher, decreased by 1.6 percent. But the percentage of people age 16 and older who were employed increased by 4.5 percent. And the median household income increased by 10 percent, from $42,903 in 2013 to $47,221 in 2016.

“These are the indicators that are encouraging as we strive to be the best Huntingburg we can be,” Spinner said in his address Friday.

The case study also looked at the nine projects the city wanted to achieve through the Stellar program, and listed what has been accomplished under each.

“Huntingburg has been able to complete three of the nine initial investment plan objects, showing that these projects were ‘do-able’ and realistic,” according to the report. “Additionally, two other projects are currently underway, one is moving closer to initial planning, and three other projects are primed to start after the railroad overpass project is completed.”

Using mostly state and federal funds, a new overpass is being built over the railroad tracks near 12th Street just east of the Industrial Park, and should be completed this fall. The overpass will give drivers a way to bypass the railroad tracks when a train is traveling through the city.

Since the report was completed, the status of some projects has changed.

Ninth Street was extended in 2015, and the 120-year-old water main under Fourth Street was replaced in 2016.

While part of the former St. Joseph’s Hospital campus was redeveloped into senior housing in 2016, plans for a behavioral health facility, Crossroads Behavioral Health, were announced in April to be constructed in the former hospital.

Workforce housing and the maintenance and emergency center projects are underway. Developers of the 56-unit housing development at Washington and Fifth Streets hope to start construction this fall. A new housing project, the St. Joseph’s Townhomes, is being planned for the 56-unit complex; an application for tax credits was to be submitted to the state by July 30. The city has agreed to give economic incentives to assist the project, which would include $550,000 for on-site improvements and $25,000 for off-site improvements, so long as the tax credits are approved.

City officials have purchased the former Fox Metal and Truss building on West 19th Street, which is expected to have an emergency shelter and house the city’s street department; architects are working on the building’s design.

The Heritage Trail and gateway locations to welcome people into the city are in the initial planning stages. The city’s Board of Public Works will consider a request to collect bids for the portion of the trail that runs along Fourth Street; that project includes a remodeling of the street. Original bids for the project were rejected in February because of the high cost.

Construction of Market Street Park started in September 2017 and is expected to be completed this summer.

The reconstruction of 14th Street is expected to be done once the railroad project is complete. Officials have been looking at completing parts of the 14th Street project before the overpass opens, to help with  expected extra traffic the street will get.

Huntingburg’s complete study can be found at www.stellarindiana.org/2017-annual-report.html.




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