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: WABASH
Today, we are focusing on the presentation that will be submitted for review to the Indiana Regional Cities initiative by the Wabash River Regional Development Authority.
Counties: KNOX, SULLIVAN and VIGO
From all of the executive summaries submitted thus far, while not the smallest in size or ask of submission, it is the smallest of population centers. The very opening paragraph is interesting in that it directly calls out the competition in attraction pool in hopes to draw visitors and employers from Illinois. Calling itself a college and university powerhouse, the Wabash region boasts several well known and respected colleges including Harrison, Indiana State University, Ivy Tech, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, St, Mary of the Woods College and last but not least Vincennes University. Immediately following, a boast of healthcare and medical industries have also found roots in the region providing the area with a unique opportunity to provide research and laboratory space for companies looking to expand their R&D facilities. A key component of the regions unique recent success is the Rural Health Innovation Collaborative located in Union Hospital West. While these economic programs are a great asset to the region, the study makes it clear that the region is just under 170,000 in persons giving it a possible disadvantage in the competition of being a true “regional city.” However, it quickly overcomes this number by stating that the number of college students that populate the three county area in the course of the year makes up by giving the area a unique opportunity to retain the talent upon graduation and the regional cities initiative is necessary to make it happen.
One of the more interesting pieces found inside the pages of this executive summary is the visionary direction of the region. The region as a whole has seemed to notice one of the greatest assets has been severely underutilized and wants to correct that moving forward. The Wabash River region aspires to be as successful and thriving as cities noted: Council Bluffs Iowa, Little Rock Arkansas and San Antonio Texas. The pages are filled with several data points, comparisons to the other cities in regards to population, age breakdowns and industry opportunities. It’s one of the more forefront summaries we have seen. Instead of opening with a list of projects either priority or visionary, it brings out a list of several completed programs and projects as a region to outline the success of the community. First, building off the prior mention of healthcare, the Good Samaritan Hospital – Gibault Memorial Tower located in Vincennes is a point of community pride. The $111 million five story project includes 240,000 square feet of space and will ultimately enhance overall care and efficiency for Knox county residents. Vincennes has also had recent success in lodging, senior housing and hospitality projects with Clark’s Crossing, the adaptive reuse of the former Lincoln Junior High School that was converted into a 47-room affordable senior apartment complex along with an extended stay suite featuring 64 guest rooms located on Willow Street. Just a few miles north in Terre Haute, the region boasts a new Aquatic Center, Sports and Recreation Center, renovated historic Indiana Theater and a world renowned venture business program launched from Rose-Hulman. Sullivan, the smallest of the counties chose to tear down their old Central Elementary School in the center of the city to construct a new all-purpose community center in the former school gymnasium which host events like farmers markets, weddings and live entertainment. Nearly $2 million has also been awarded to the community for blight elimination programs that will remove 65 homes in the city that can be freed for new development and infill.
PRIORITY PROJECTS FOR THE WRRDA
1. ICON Building – $22 Million
The Indiana State University in collaboration with its higher education partners and a private developer are proposing to rehabilitate the former American Can Company location on the banks of the Wabash River. At 180,000 square feet, the three story former industrial space will be able to provide living and working space for emerging entrepreneurs. Because of the prime location of the facility, outdoor activities including, hiking, biking, boating and other athletic sports can be done close by. Nearly 125 market-rate apartments will also populate the newly renovated building. Another unique feature is the open and collaborative work space for freelancers, independents, and start-ups called Launch Terre Haute. Taking a page from the successful Launch Fishers, the space is meant to provide collaboration and entrepreneurial programming.
2. IVY TECH Precision Agriculture Center – $2 Million
An abandoned industrial facility in the South Terre Haute Industrial Park will be the new home of the Ivy Tech Community College Precision Agriculture Center. A new high-tech laboratory for precision agriculture and heavy-to medium diesel will help set Terre Haute and the educational programs at Ivy Tech apart from many other competing communities. Attracting students from around Indiana and especially Illinois, the center will provide geospatial technology, how it is used to control agricultural machinery and its impact on field operations. The demand for diesel technology experts to meet current and projected workforce shortages continues to grow, these facilities will allow the programs to blend their programming to equip students with a well-rounded education. Realization of this project will fill a skills gap, improve the quality of life for our students, and support businesses in a large geographic area.
3. St. Mary’s Of The Woods Equine Program – $4.9 Million
The St. Mary’s College Equine Facility will establish Terre Haute as the leader in equine events on local, state and national platforms. The proposed 30,000 square foot facility will be host to academic equine programming such as pre-veterinarian and the only equine assisted therapy program minor offered in the United States putting Terre Haute on the radar in a national light. The city plans to market and promote the facility to help attract and retain talent and visitors who might be interested in the programs offered.
4. Pioneer Oil Building – $5 Million
The old Hills building located in downtown Vincennes is 35,000 square feet and is being renovated at nearly $150 per square foot to house a new office. Vincennes and the Knox County Development Corporation partnered to provide resources to purchase adjoining real estate, pave a huge parking lot for employees and assist in moving Pioneer Oil’s headquarters from Illinois. The company currently employs 40 administrative positions and another 200 Indiana-hired employees working in Knox and other Indiana counties. This contributes nearly $19 million in payroll to the state once the move is completed.
5. Pantheon Theater – $2.1 Million
The historic Pantheon Theater located in the heart of Vincennes represents the large arts history in the city. The theater was originally designed to accommodate silent films, large road shows and concerts boasting over 1,200 seats. Since Vincennes is roughly halfway between St. Louis and Cincinnati, the theater would become an often regular stop for The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields and Duke Ellington. The theater was closed in the 1950’s after low attendance and high maintenance costs and was purchased by a local development organization. The dream is to see the theater transformed into a Community Center/Meeting room providing 5,700 square feet of space. The remaining space would be turned into a Primary Care/Walk-In Clinic through a partnership with Good Samaritan Hospital and expect to serve 75-100 patients per day.
6. New Moon Theater – $250,000
A gateway building into downtown Vincennes is the New Moon Theater originally equipped with a stage and motion picture screen that seated 1,200 when opening in 1939. The 9,200 square foot building sits at one of the busiest intersections in the city. The plans call for the creation of a parking lot at the corner of 6th and Main to accommodate the anticipated visitor increase due to both the Pantheon renovation and the New Moon Theater.
7. Kimmell Park Revitalization – $2.5 Million
An 18-acre camping and park area is located near the Vincennes University campus and offers magnificent views of the Wabash River. The revitalization of the major riverfront park will create a hub of new entertainment opportunities where a current blighted campground exists. The plans all for a new walking path along the river to connect the park and the university eventually stretching into downtown Vincennes. The new recreation space along the edge of the park will include a water fountain and plaza, children playground, picnic tables, park benches, green space event space, new restrooms and an outdoor performance venue. Additionally new lighting, road surface and much needed trees and landscaping would be installed with the park to provide an intimate setting that can easily be transformed into a large space to host special local and regional events. The park will be designed to attract the thousands of students that attend the university as well as create a destination for families, friends and business associates.
8. Vincennes University Student Center – $4.35 Million
The oldest college in Indiana is expanding the current campus and most recently broke ground on their new, highly anticipated Student Center. The 20,000 square foot center will include a technology cafe, gaming lounge, study areas, multi-functional spaces, visual display boards, indoor fireplace and an outdoor seating area. Once completed, the facility will join other student amenities including the Student Recreation Center, Aquatic Center and Physical Education Complex all under one roof.
*One interesting note, while reviewing the study, it clearly stood out several times that Sullivan County was not participatory in much of the presentation. None of the priority of vision projects outlined in the report event mention Sullivan County or the benefit it could possibly have, and even in the demographic reports the county was left out because it does not fall within a MSA.