Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist, Aim
In 2014, when Huntingburg was designated a Stellar Community, the recognition infused state funding into the city for transformational projects.
But before the city could access those dollars, Huntingburg leaders had to come up with local funding to serve as a match to the state’s investment. They turned to tax-increment financing as a primary source for that local support.
“Without TIF, we wouldn’t have had the impact Stellar had. It touched housing, downtown redevelopment, improvements to the industrial park,” Huntingburg Mayor Denny Spinner said. “There was no element of Stellar that TIF didn’t impact.”
Stellar provided the momentum for Huntingburg to undertake projects on the table for quite some time. And the program, a collaboration among several state agencies to provide community development funding to cities and towns, allowed Huntingburg leaders to dream big about projects they never would have envisioned, Spinner said.
Through Stellar, Huntingburg launched Hunters Crossing, a workforce housing development that’s brought 17 new single-family homes to the city with plans for a second phase. The city set aside $500,000 in TIF revenue to attract the private developer. Ultimately, the funding was used to build the first road into the community, which will eventually connect a main thoroughfare to a new city park.
And the public-private partnership came at a savings for Huntingburg. The city didn’t pay for the road’s engineering costs because the private developer included the design in its work for the entire subdivision.
“By leveraging TIF dollars and putting infrastructure in place, it triggered investment by a private developer,” Spinner said. “It was a direct benefit to those in the TIF district who needed workforce housing. I heard directly from the business leaders in the TIF district that they supported the creation of housing because they needed it for their industry to grow and provide workers.”
Along with the housing development, Huntingburg is using TIF to help fund another Stellar project — Market Street Park. The project is building a public gathering space around the city’s iconic Old Town Hall. The project will feature a two-sided performance pavilion, a farmers market area, community swings and a pergola.
“Stellar created a real community spirit,” Spinner said. “It’s made us really think about the positive things about the community and the things that we can change to make Huntingburg even more attractive and even more positive. It has invited investment into the city we haven’t seen before and put us in the conversation regionally. When we started the process of evaluating whether or not to seek Stellar, without the funds we had available in our TIF, we wouldn’t have even considered it.”
Huntingburg strives to be open and transparent in its use of TIF funds and has a track record in using the revenue in an effective way, Spinner said.
“That has kept projects and ideas moving forward that we never would have had the opportunity do under normal funding cycles,” Spinner said. “Without TIF, we wouldn’t have been in the position to seek Stellar, which has transformed our community beyond our wildest imagination and will continue to impact our community for decades to come.”