Hoch Associates has been a long time advocate of the Indiana Regional Cities initiative which was originally announced by the IEDC in November 2014 as a way to fight population stagnation and potential decline. Statistics have shown us that in the last 50 years, only two Indiana counties have grown faster than the nation as a whole. While our business climate is ranked among the best in the entire nation, most counties are still projected to lose people and potentially jobs at a rate that should concern most everyone in the state. This is why we believe that the Regional Cities initiative set forth by the state is essential in making Indiana really a “State That Works.” During the program reveal, state leaders shared a few benchmark regions that communities in Indiana should look to imitate including Austin Texas, Provo Utah, Manhattan Kansas, Denver Colorado and Boise Idaho. These communities have seen exponential growth by investing heavily in improving the quality of life that attracts and retains residents and jobs, creating healthy and vibrant communities. We truly believe the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative is a #powerfulidea that will help put Indiana on a path of success in the coming decades.
With the upcoming presentations to the state on Tuesday, October 6th and Wednesday, October 7th, we wanted to share a snapshot of each regions submissions to secure the $42 Million in funding. Each region had several steps to complete prior to presenting their projects to the state including the creation of physical regions that would work together as a collective to distribute the monies if received. While most regions rushed to complete each of the steps, others unfortunately couldn’t get full support from necessary counties and leaders. For example, in the 11th hour one fiercely competitive region “Southeast Indiana” couldn’t get all the necessary approvals from Floyd, Washington and Harrison Counties which then forced them to bow out of the race. Others, including Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership worked diligently on getting a consensus of leadership from several counties and joint agencies to compete for the quality of place improvement funds allocated by the state.
INDIANA REGIONAL CITIES: SOUTHWEST
Today, we are focusing on the presentation that will be submitted for review to the Indiana Regional Cities initiative by the Southwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.
Counties: VANDERBURGH, WARRICK, GIBSON and POSEY
Indiana’s third largest city and economic impact center is Evansville, nicely situated in what is called Indiana’s Great Southwest in this presentation. Boasting well over a quarter million people this bold plan calls for the increase of population which will then trigger several private economic development projects that will continue to enhance and grow the region. Immediately, the report calls out the disparity of area populations with Posey County losing the most at 4.3% but places like Warrick County actually seeing an increase of 13.9%. No surprise as we have seen in other reports that a continued issue is the growing age gap pushing the southwest regions population about 2 years above the state average at nearly 39 years old. While the region boasts 8 independent schools for higher education, only 20,000 students are pursuing high ed and 21.5% of the population has a Bachelors Degree or higher, slightly behind the state average. As a region, it’s been “holding it’s own” and unlike other communities in the state, experiencing modest growth. Some key findings by the Greater Evansville: Place For Young Professionals study show that the region needs to keep working on a strong central identity, create a push to fill in and promote downtown Evansville and the city/region should place an emphasis on attracting and retaining the Millennial generation.
The region has a strong manufacturing heritage due mostly to its location on the Ohio River, but with most manufacturing jobs recently the area is also seeing some economic difficulties. Items include the decline of housing stock in traditional blue-collar neighborhoods where industry has moved out, millennials often complaining there is “nothing to do” citing several other nearby cities and their abundance of activity and the lack of high speed internet according to the National Broadband Map placing Evansville at 368 of 370 metros. While the region is facing some challenges, it also has many opportunities that can be transformational in their impact on growth. The Indiana University School of Medicine, Multi-Institutional Academic Health Science Education and Research University in downtown Evansville is a medical school campus that will be constructed in a six block area, with the likelihood of over doubling the investment of $75 million. A new downtown Evansville Convention Hotel constructed on an adjacent block will allow the healthcare industry to utilize the space to enhance the region. Agricultural production continues to be an unsung asset of Southwest Indiana, Posey and Gibson ranking among the highest providing a resource for food processing manufacturers. The Ohio River offers several leisure, recreational, commercial and scenic opportunities for residents and visitors which will improve the overall quality of life. Transportation Logistics with a newly connected Interstate 69 and the sixth largest U.S. inland river port district. Diverse Industry base and world-class businesses such as Berry Plastics, ALCOA, SABIC Innovative, AstraZeneca and Toyota have all provided resources to a growing community.
By 2025, the plan calls for the region to grow its population by 70,000 people helping Indiana achieve the goal of growing its population by 2 million persons in 10 years. It also calls to expand its employment base in the manufacturing and healthcare industries, with an emphasis on innovation, research and development, thus attracting talent to stay or relocate in the region. Reinforce Evansville’s role as regional city and leverage its strategic location to gain market share currently being captured by Nashville, St. Louis and Louisville. Repopulate urban centers, especially the city of Evansville with a focus on urban renewal and mixed-use development and transform Evansville’s downtown area into a vibrant 24/7 urban event with a variety of choices for dining, nightlife, entertainment, housing and overall unique experiences.
PRIORITY PROJECTS FOR THE SWIRDA
1. Indiana University School of Medicine Multi-Institutional Academic Health Science Education and Research Facility.
The project involves the construction of the Indiana University School of Medicine in downtown Evansville and the development of an associated research facility. The function is to help ensure that the region has adequate physicians and healthcare professionals to meet future demands of a growing population. The IU School of Medicine will bring a new dynamic to Evansville and the new medical campus will transform the downtown area. The investment in new structures, along with an influx of students, faculty and related resources will help to spawn and drive additional development in the area. It’s important to note that the project’s success is built upon the collaboration of competing healthcare providers including Deaconess, St. Mary’s Health Network, Memorial Hospital and Good Samaritan. The research facility component will be the larger economic driver for the project. Plans call for a separate 15,000 square foot structure adjacent to the IU School of Medicine including a neuro imaging MRI/PET scanner for imaging research in mental health, geriatrics/aging and other neuroscience clinical research.
Future phases of the project include the Ivy Tech Nursing School which will be connected to the IU school of Medicine Campus. Additional private investment includes upgrades by a local healthcare provider in investing $22,500,000 for its medical campus. Another healthcare provider will be investing $15,000,000 in upgrades to its medical campus and a public/private partnership plans to invest $5,000,000 to develop student housing options on the campus.
2. New Urban Living Research Center
Through a series of engagements between Vectren and Haier America a unique development concept that can help attract talent and create considerable economic development opportunity has been realized. The new downtown housing facility would serve as a platform for research and development associated with energy efficiency and “connected” appliances. The new structure would serve as a design standard for future downtown housing developments, another important design consideration will be the ability of units to accommodate the change out of appliances, products and construction materials and systems. It could also be of considerable interest to the University of Evansville engineering and business departments, as well as the University of Southern Indiana engineering school and engagement office.
3. Downtown Housing & Fitness Campus
The downtown Evansville YMCA project provides an important anchor development in the heart of the city. It is understood by development professionals that vibrant YMCA facilities are an important part of successful downtown urban areas. The YMCA provides downtown residents ready access to health and wellness resources and fosters the creation and maintenance of a healthy community and workforce. The project includes the construction of a new and modern YMCA just north of the existing facility. A portion of the existing YMCA would then be renovated to maintain the swimming pool, basketball courts and related sporting venues. The 1913 building would be re-purposed and available space in the current YMCA building would serve as much needed storage space and administrative back office area. Finally, the YMCA will re-purpose their former residential structure to create student-oriented downtown housing for potential use by students of the IU School of Medicine. The housing could provide 50 rental units and the entire building may accommodate as many as 80.
4. The Market @ Walnut
The regional development plan seeks to support the coming Market @ Walnut project which will enhance mixed-use development in the downtown Evansville area that is capable of changing the regions perspective on urban living. The plan is to build the space along the Ohio River leveraging one of the regions key valuable assets. In addition to downtown housing, the space will include much desired commercial space and hopes to attract a national pharmacy and urban scale grocery store. Another unique feature of the development is a public space for events, concerts and community gatherings.
Additional housing opportunities in downtown include a $15,000,000 investment in the renovation of the McCurdy building, $10,000,000 for the Sterling Brewery Facility which will also include commercial space and the hopes of transforming the 18 story 420 Main Building (former headquarters of Old National Bank).
5. Regional Connector Trails
Nearly $3 million in regional cities funding would go toward the efforts in implementing the regional connector trails projects. Trails include the North Main Connector increasing connectivity from downtown to the new north Main Street, IU School of Medicine to University of Evansville connector along Walnut Avenue, IU School of Medicine to West Franklin Street (an established entertainment and restaurant district), University of Evansville to Roberts Park and Haynie’s Corner to Greenway along Adams Avenue. Additional projects include the IU School of Medicine Loop, New North Main Street Trail Warrick County Trail Network and River Bend Trails in Mount Vernon.
6. Signature School Science Center
The first charter high school in the state of Indiana opened in Evanville in August 2002 recognized by the Washington Post as the 6th best high school in the country and #1 in the Midwest. The project would include the addition of new classrooms, labs and commons areas serving an additional 90 students. With the proximity to the new Medical Education and Research Facility, this will serve as an attraction for top Med School faculty and researches with the opportunity for a world class education for their children.
7. Oakland City University Downtown
Oakland City University realized that their residency halls are starting to become dated and needed to be updated or replaced. In the course of considering new locations for campus housing, the university recognized that the downtown was only 3 blocks away from the eastern boundary of the campus. Community and University leaders decided to collaborate and stop the slow decline of the downtown area. The housing project would be a mixed use development that would provide retail-commercial space on the ground floor and residential units above. An expanded mixed-use development concept includes a small hotel operation to serve the needs of the university and area businesses along with a number of market rate housing units. A new connector trail from the downtown student housing facility to the OCU campus would also be featured and plans to develop a new performing arts center located along the connector between campus and downtown.
8. Victoria National Conference Center
Victoria National Golf Club is located in scenic Newburgh, a private 18-hole course that was designed by a world famous architect. The goal is to host important programming such as the PGA and USGA major golf events on a regular basis. While work has progressed rapidly at the site, the Indiana Regional Cities Investment would help secure the additional items needed including an event center facility. The conference center would be located in the Friedman Park that is adjacent to Victoria National, Warrick County also intends to include additional park improvements that will be of value to residents and the future success of Victoria National. Additional improvements include trails, playgrounds, picnic shelters, restrooms, parking and staging areas and a pedestrian bridge between Friedman Park and Victoria National.
9. Warrick County Wellness Trail
Located near the former I-164 (now I-69) and the Lloyd Expressway cloverleaf is the Epworth Road/Highway 66 Medical District which also includes the Warrick Wellness Trail. Situated to become the regional healthcare hub withing 56 miles of ten Indiana counties, eight Kentucky counties and four Illinois counties, the major healthcare providers have all situated locations along this corridor. The Regional Cities funds would be to the benefit of Warrick County so it can complete the remaining infrastructure improvements to create a fully functional healthcare campus development. Future developments will solidify the regions role as a center of healthcare and wellness and include:
A new medical center that will create 175 new jobs and provide an estimated investment of $75,000,000.
A new hotel to begin construction in 2016 and create up to 50 jobs, a second hotel will begin construction in 2018 and support an additional 50 jobs.
Two new Medical Office Buildings, the first beginning in 2016 and creating 40 jobs, the second will start in 2017 and create an additional 40 jobs with an investment of $20,000,000.
The creation of a new continuing care facility that will create 75 new jobs and is slated to begin in 2016.
A new Life Style apartment development will begin in 2016.
Hospital related developments that will start in 2016 and create 60 new jobs.
Additional retail and commercial development to support the areas growth.
10. New Harmony Arts & Food Project
New Harmony has quickly gained the reputation as an arts and cultural destination for the tri-state region. The proposed New Harmony Arts and Food Project seeks to capitalize on the uniqueness of the New Harmony community and the experiences it provides. The project includes the conversion of a vacant high school into an educational center for arts and local foots. The goal with WMI (Working Men’s Institute) is to convert the space into a conservatory and will offer instruction in many areas including, but not limited to, those supporting the arts and local agricultural pursuits. The renovation of the Odd Fellows Hall into a storefront and childrens museum will add considerable value to the community and renovate one of the few unimproved structures along the Main Street corridor. A vacant lot on the southwest corner of Main and Church streets has been identified for an outdoor market. The project would include the construction of said facility that can accommodate three seasons, installation of a durable floor structure and the outdoor market will be the perfect complement to the unique shopping experiences in the community. Finally, to enhance the experience plans call for the repurposing of the New Harmony Way Bridge into a bike/pedestrian trail and park. The initial structure was erected in 1929 and closed to vehicular traffic in May of 2012.
11. Broadband Demonstration Project
$1,000,000 in regional cities funding would be dedicated to the expansion of regional broadband. The project begins in the rural areas of the region and help outlying areas better align with urban resources such as healthcare and education. This follows in the call of action set forth by Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, who led engagement programs at the University of Southern Indiana and pursued to expand broadband efforts along the I-69 Innovation Corridor Project.
12. Evansville Regional Airport Terminal Renovation
Th terminal serves as the regional airport for three states and at 25 years of age, is considerable dated and does not meet current expectations. The updated terminal would add considerable value to the efforts of local companies to grow their businesses, attract talent, develop new customers and improve the quality of supply chains. Recent success has been the attraction of new flights to both Charlotte and Chicago, with industries such as Berry Plastics and Haier, an improved transportation hub is essential in the growth of the region. Evansville traffic is up 20-30% which is a direct result of not only the airline’s investment in Evansville but also the community putting money back into the airport through flights out, parking fees, etc.