HURON – Dilapidated housing and downtown and economic development have been identified as key areas that need the community’s attention in the next few years, about 70 residents who spent three hours brainstorming ideas a week ago have come up with.
“Huron Rising: Re-imagine Our Future” is now moving forward, after Wednesday evening’s presentation of an executive summary of findings from the first session.
Huron native Dr. Bill Anderson Jr. of Vermillion has facilitated the town halls.
The goal now is to establish downtown and housing task forces that would be responsible for providing large-scale visions and best first investment bets by the end of the year.
By 2020, each task force will be asked to have one project done, with the next one shovel-ready.
Huron Community Foundation board members have reached out to the public to seek ideas to improve the quality of life in the city.
The foundation’s annual distribution of funds has been rapidly increasing, from $40,000 in 2016 to about $125,000 by 2019.
Those attending the first round table discussion identified the downtown and dilapidated housing as the two most pressing problems.
The percentage of dilapidated homes has grown substantially. They are costly to remove and difficult to enforce change.
Like the housing situation, repair and replacement costs in the downtown area are high.
As they came up with ways to address housing issues, participants suggested public-private partnerships that shouldn’t concentrate efforts in only one area of town.
“Compromised housing” tax rates to drive out poor housing providers was suggested, as well as tax approaches to developing affordable housing consistent with the renters’ culture and family structure.
A five-year comprehensive dilapidated housing replacement effort was also suggested.
As for downtown, participants said there should be a vision for replacement of the least attractive segments between Market Street and Third Street and Dakota Avenue South.
A culture center, park, live music area, farmer’s or maker’s markets, mixed-use or new co-working spaces, new flats or town homes were suggested.
One plan is to establish downtown as Point B on a line from Point A in Southtown. With the state Department of Transportation scheduled to redo Dakota Avenue by 2024 or 2025, the plan could include a bike path and extensions throughout the community, with the river and parks to the east, fairgrounds to the west and Southtown to the south.
Downtown then becomes the rehabilitated focal point between the points of interest.
The group is recommending specific incentives for business owners, including:
• No-cost or low-cost storefronts and start-up cash for viable businesses operating now in homes, basements or in less visible areas of town.
• Moving away from “big bet” business recruitment to many small seed loans and investments.
• Establishing a business mentoring and incubator program.
• Conditioning ongoing engagement in the program with owners for five years following funding, storefront, remodel and incubator/mentoring and intensive investment from the community.
PHOTOS BY ROGER LARSEN/PLAINSMAN
Dr. Bill Anderson, Jr., leads a discussion on several ideas brought forward at the Sept. 12 “Huron Rising: Re-Imagine Our Future” meet at the Huron Campus Center.
Next, roundtable groups such as this one brainstormed ideas to help guide Huron forward over the next decade and beyond.
And next, State Fair Manager Peggy Besch transfers ideas that came from her round table group to a big flip chart for discussion at the Huron Rising event.