Jonathan Pitman and Megan Greve, Herald-Press

The City of Huntington has a lot of projects in store for 2016.

Mayor Brooks Fetters said there are five areas the city is focusing on this year are street and alley paving, sidewalk improvements, trails and greenways, parks and gateway beautification.

“The focus of 2016 and beyond is on quality-of-life improvements around the city of Huntington. What do we do to make Huntington a more attractive place and a more desirable place for people to live, work and play?” he said.

In terms of trails Fetters said 2016 will see the renovation of the Schenkel Station as a downtown hub for the city’s trails. He also said trail sections from LaFontaine Street to the Erie Rail bridge and from Market Street near Yeoman Park to Gragg Street behind Forest Glen Park at Huntington University will be constructed.

Another project in the works for 2016 is the beautification of Old U.S. 24 from First to Broadway streets, which will include new street lighting, median trees, enhanced road lanes and walking and biking trails.

“A lot of this stuff is going to come out for bid out of the gate in January,” Fetters said.

He also said that along with alley and street work by the city, the Indiana Department of Transportation will also be repaving U.S. 224 and Ind. 5 through the city, which includes all of Jefferson Street.

“That will be a little disruptive but it’s going to be a nice improvement (when it is done),” he said. Fetters added a local company, E and B Paving, was awarded the contract, so they will work around Heritage Days for the project.

The city will also continue work on three downtown properties in 2016. It continues to work with Indiana Landmarks and Anderson Partners LLC on renovations to the former Odd Fellows/United Brethren building. The city will also finish construction at Rotary Centennial Park, the site of the former Wolf and Dessauer building, this year.

The city is also in the process of acquiring the former annex building from the county, Fetters said. He added the first steps will be to analyze the structure of the building, which he said was at the “most critical” intersection of downtown.

“(The Redevelopment Commission is) going to be looking at ways to make that strategic piece of property work in the most effective way to really continue to take downtown further down a good path,” Fetters said, adding the city wants to see the space contribute to the vibrancy of downtown living and retail.

Another project for 2016 involves expanding the city’s its industrial sector.

Mark Wickersham, executive director of Huntington County Economic Development, said there is a need to explore other options when it comes to expanding industry in Huntington. Although he said that business is booming, he stressed that the amount of space for new industries coming into town is running low.

“We are going to continue to look for locations we can at some point develop into an industrial park,” Wickersham said.

He also discussed how Huntington is improving.

“At one point, we had a high unemployment rate and now we don’t. That’s good news and bad news to the extent that it’s a challenge we simply have opportunities for future growth,” he said. “That is first and foremost on our agenda.”

The city also continues to eye progress on the Regional Cities Initiative. The county has four projects in the winning proposal for $42 million in state funds, which include renovations of the UB building, regional trails, changes to the Dan Quayle Vice Presidental Learning Center and better connecting Huntington University’s Digital Media Arts program to the downtown.

“(Regional Cities) ties right in with what the city has been working toward and gearing up for the last four years and that is to be able to focus on the quality-of-life amenities that attract young families, young millennials...to stay in Huntington, to live in Huntington, to make Huntington their home,” Fetters said.

Fetters said none of the 70 projects in the proposal will be matched 100 percent from Regional Cities.

“Regional Cities is looking at being involved at about a 20 percent level and the rest of it they want to see come from...primarily private sources but it may also come from public sources like (county economic development income tax) CEDIT or (tax increment financing) TIF or those sorts of things,” he said.

Fetters said he believed the most successful projects would be those with strong public-private collaboration, which he said Huntington County has historically been good at.

“I think Huntington’s in a good spot,” he said of chances to see at least some of the projects come to fruition.  

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