HUNTINGBURG — What ideas and developments should be worked on for Huntingburg?

About 50 people came to an open house workshop Thursday evening to help answer that question. An online survey, which will be shared sometime today on the City of Huntingburg Facebook page, also seeks ideas.

Answers given Thursday highlighted physical developments, such as having a fitness center and more restaurants and places to shop. Other ideas involved community development, like creating programs to connect the city’s Hispanic community with the overall community.

All the information will be researched and compiled into the city’s next comprehensive plan.

“I don’t think any of it was outlandish,” said Huntingburg Councilman Kerry Blessinger, a member of the plan’s steering committee. “I kinda expected the ideas we got. But there were a few things I didn’t think of.”

Thursday’s workshop is the start of the city updating its comprehensive plan, which is named “Your Home, Your Huntingburg.” The plan will establish future goals for growth and development for the city. Scott Siefker, principal of Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group, and Haley James, community planner for Taylor Siefker, are the consultants facilitating and creating the plan. City officials have said it will take about 18 months to update the plan.

Workshop participants were asked for suggestions of what they saw as the city’s assets and challenges, as well as what’s needed for the city’s future. They wrote suggestions on sticky notes and attached them to a board addressing specific topics like connectivity, community programs, economic development, regional influence and big ideas that should be considered.

Several people left notes about having sidewalks that connect the city’s north side and south side. Some other ideas included having a community center, encouraging more activities at the city’s parks, having community classes for children and adults, bringing more retail stores and restaurants into the city, installing more public restrooms, having a community theater group and promoting clean energy.

“If you look at the ideas, they have to do with quality of life,” Blessinger said, “restaurants, arts and entertainment, good parks, good schools, sidewalks. That’s all quality of life things.”

Information about Huntingburg’s current demographics was shared. The city’s 2017 population estimate is 6,633. That is expected to grow to 6,819 by 2020; 7,132 by 2030; and 7,222 by 2040. Twenty-four percent of the population’s ethnicity is Hispanic.

What surprised officials the most about the population was that the majority of the population, 39%, is under age 25.

“One of the challenges I see is how does the city as a whole do a better job of engaging the under 35 group?” said city Planning Director Paul Lake, who is also a member of the comprehensive plan steering committee. “It’s tough.”

Some focus groups in that demographic will be developed to specifically get their ideas and comments for the plan, Siefker said. Also, an online survey is going live today — a link will be shared on the city’s Facebook page — to collect more ideas, he said. All Huntingburg residents and stakeholders are encouraged to fill out the survey, which will be available through August.

Blessinger agreed that engaging the younger population is vital.

“People nowadays, younger people, look for quality of life. If that’s nice, then they decide that’s where they want to live. And then they find a job,” he said. “They don’t move to the job and then try to get everything else. They want all that stuff first, and then they’ll find a job in that nice place.”

All the ideas shared at the workshop and in the survey will be compiled and shared with the steering committee, which will meet in September and October. The information will be shared with the public at the next public meeting, which will held in November. That meeting will also include drafts of the plan’s vision statement, goals and objectives.

Huntingburg’s comprehensive plan was last updated in 2014. Communities must have an updated plan to apply for various state and federal grant funding.
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