Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist, Aim
This year, Madison and Culver became the newest designees in the state’s Stellar Communities program. With the recognition, both communities will receive an influx of funding for community development projects.
Aim caught up with Andrew Forrester, Madison’s director of community relations, to learn how the new designation is shaping the city’s future.
How has Madison’s Stellar designation already impacted the community, and what long-term benefits do you anticipate?
The designation has already brought a lot of attention to Madison, both internal and external. Internally, I think it has strengthened the resolve and commitment of our community members to think and plan big for the future. Just like our involvement in the America’s Best Communities competition, this brought out an excitement and community pride. Externally, the designation has shone a spotlight on Madison. One of our big projects has garnered more interest from developers over the last six months than it had in the six years prior. The designation has really helped draw attention to our community from investors and visitors from not only around Indiana but around the country. The long-term benefits will include a lot of the same things we’ve seen over the last few months: increased excitement in our community for long-awaited projects, increased attention from developers, increased investment from both the public and private sector, and better marketing opportunities as we continue to show Madison is one of the best communities in the United States to live or visit.
Now that Madison is a Stellar designee, what projects are in the pipeline?
Our first project got started right away, even as we were still finalists. It will transform an abandoned factory building into an active senior housing facility in the heart of our downtown. We are hopeful that project can begin construction in April 2018. The next projects include upgrading and creating new parks facilities throughout the community and finishing our trail loop around the community.
Twenty years down the road, what is your vision for Madison? How will Stellar have shaped that vision?
In 20 years, we see Madison as a thriving destination for everyone to live and visit. We see Madison becoming a major tourism hub for our region, and a place where young people and active retirees choose to live because of our high quality-of-life amenities such as parks and trails (including Clifty Falls State Park), arts and cultural offerings, collaboration with Hanover College and Ivy Tech, world-class manufacturing jobs, numerous festivals and events, and proximity to three major metropolitan areas (Louisville, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis). Stellar will have shaped that vision by bringing the community together around transformative projects that make the big vision a reality with the help of the State of Indiana.
What excites you the most about the Stellar designation?
What excites me most is the fact that Stellar has brought everyone in the community together to think about the big things we can accomplish over the next four to five years. It is a lot harder to get excited when a project timeline takes place over eight to 12 years. I think the other exciting thing about the Stellar designation is that it validates all the hard work our community has done to get to this point. We’ve been through six years of creating a vision and action plan, a comprehensive plan, and applying for numerous smaller grants. Stellar is the culmination of all of that hard work.