Below is the Draft Plan proposed to Linton City Council, also termed “C to Shining C.”

Linton Downtown Community Redevelopment/Revitalization Plan

The Linton Downtown Community Revitalization Plan (the “Plan”) was created to aid in the redevelopment of downtown Linton, through thoughtful study of existing conditions and analysis of methods of improvement. The Plan is not only to be a list of specific goals and priorities, but to be used as a resource tool for City residents interested in establishing a sense of place in Linton.

Long the commercial center of Greene County, although it is not the County seat, the City of Linton has several existing strengths that can be drawn upon to improve the City center. For example, downtown streets are heavily trafficked, so the problem becomes not so much attracting people as creating reasons for the traffic to stop and park. Another plus is that a good deal of the existing downtown building fabric still stands, and that there are several existing businesses that pull people downtown. The Goose Pond Recreational Area, purchased in 2005 by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, has seen a steady increase in visitors as the DNR slowly upgrades its on-site amenities. Goose Pond is becoming a destination for eco-tourists to wander the 8,000 acres of wetland, and those visitors must travel through downtown Linton to reach the facility. See Exhibit A for an area map with the Goose Pond Area shown in relation to downtown Linton.

The Plan was developed with the support and input from downtown Linton merchants, and includes a clearly delineated target area, detailed policy goals and priorities, implementation measures with time frames for achievement of goals and priorities, and an assessment of existing physical structures and infrastructures of the community. The methodology for creating the Plan is detailed below.

Methodology

The process used to develop and adopt the Plan consisted of interviewing downtown merchants, City of Linton public officials, and Greene County Economic Development Corporation members; examining previous studies of downtown Linton (i.e., Indiana Department of Resources Historical Study done in 2006, see Exhibit B); and inviting and processing public input during public hearings. The current Mayor of Linton was involved in the formation process and fully supports the goals and priorities of the Plan. The Plan is to be reviewed by the Linton City Council and offered for adoption. All the research that went into the formation of the Plan was developed during 2010 and 2011, so the conditions described in the Plan currently exist.

Targeted Area

The downtown area of Linton targeted by the Plan is bounded by North C Street to the north, South C Street to the south, East 3rd Street to the east, and West 2nd Street to the west. These boundaries create a geographical rectangle that is longer in the north-south direction, as historic Linton developed along the north-south Main Street. Two east-west streets, North A Street and Vincennes Street, became important later in the development of the Linton downtown. The National Register “Linton Commercial Historic District” lies entirely within the targeted redevelopment area, and the preservation and reuse of the contributing structures within the LCHD is an important redevelopment goal. Please refer to Exhibit C for a scale map of downtown Linton with the revitalization area clearly delineated.

Goals and Priorities

The main policy goals and priorities of the Plan are as follows:

  • Economic development with attendant job creation
  • Land use/utility issues & improvements
  • Historic preservation and reuse
  • Housing options
  • Social services (supporting the family)
  • Recreational development & neighborhood beautification
  • Neighborhood safety- crime control

Implementation measures, with time frames for achievement, are described in the Plan and are found in the Recommendations section under each policy goal. The main agent of change, the people who have the most at stake, will be the members of the Downtown Merchants Association (the “DMA”). Without their time commitment, downtown Linton may follow the path of many small Indiana cities, wherein the downtown has become an economic drag on the community. Linton has an excellent chance to avoid the situation that can be seen in nearby small cities, but the City must act quickly before physical deterioration of the downtown fabric is irreversible.

Economic Development

Economic development is the basis for the Plan, as all benefits flow from increased economic activity in the downtown area. The Greene County Economic Development Corporation will be instrumental in attracting new businesses to the area, but additional emphasis needs to be placed on moving business downtown.

The formation of a downtown merchants association is absolutely critical, as businesses that are currently located downtown should be aided and encouraged. These businesses should be consulted as to expansion plans and future ventures, so planning may take into account their needs. The existing merchants must be the agents for change, as they have a vested interest in seeing the downtown improve.

Because of shared goals and potential synergies, the DMA should work in close cooperation with, or as a standing committee of, the local Chamber of Commerce. Many DMA members will also be members of the Chamber, and while the goals and priorities of the two groups are basically the same, the downtown merchants are much more familiar with the opportunities and difficulties of promoting businesses in the targeted area.

Recommendations:

  • Form a Downtown Merchants Association, which would meet regularly with the Greene County EDC. Once the Merchants Association gets on its feet, it could convert an empty office or building for its headquarters. The time frame for formation of the DMA would be one year from the adoption of the Plan.
  • Identify funding sources and programs that could financially aid the target area revitalization, and analyze which programs should be pursued for both public and private improvements. Coordination with the GCEDC and the Chamber of Commerce will be a priority so the maximum financial benefit can be gained. See Exhibit D for a partial list of sources and programs.
  • Develop an urban homesteading program, wherein starter businesses are provided a year’s worth of free rent to locate downtown. Membership in the Downtown Merchants Association would be mandatory, and purchases of supplies for the new businesses would be restricted to downtown merchants as much as possible.
  • Encourage unusual businesses to come downtown: printing, sign companies, photography, crafts, scrapbooking, and professional offices such as dentists, architects or accountants.
  • Create opportunities for customers to come to the downtown using special events such as sidewalk sales days, changing display windows, family events like a Halloween or Christmas house, or food-centered events like chili cook-offs with local vendors.
  • Provide a tie-in to the Linton Music Fest, possibly providing another concert venue or opportunity for groups to appear in the downtown target area.

Land Use/Infrastructure

The Linton City Comprehensive Plan describes land uses and will be very helpful in locating new business in the downtown area. Linton ordinances and infrastructure can aid in the competition to attract new business and keep existing businesses healthy. Derelict buildings and crumbling infrastructure can discourage business, so a protocol should be established by the DMA in conjunction with City government that tracks buildings in trouble, evaluates their importance to thedowntown, identifies legal issues of ownership, and suggests how stabilization could be funded. The economics of building demolition should also be examined.

Parking is always an issue, both on- and off-street, and a parking inventory should be created to show where existing parking is located, and where future parking may be an option. The parking analysis should include existing locations of pole and building lighting, and where new lighting would best be located. Utility availability and capacity should be analyzed, and a maintenance schedule established, so utility repairs are not always made in a crisis situation. New businesses will want to know about broadband internet access, both wired and wireless, and where it is available downtown.

Recommendations:

  • Create a file on every unused building in the downtown district, starting with the legal information available publicly through the Recorder’s & Assessor’s offices. See Exhibit E to see what information this file might contain. The time frame to achieve the creation of such files would be one to two years from the formation of the DMA.
  • Review, on a quarterly basis, what is happening with buildings in trouble.
  • Create and maintain a utility map of the downtown to chart physical needs (including lighting and additional parking) and improvements as they are being made to existing infrastructure.
  • If these recommendations are followed, they would create an assessment of existing physical structures and infrastructures of the community.

Historic Preservation and Reuse

The National Register District Survey (the “NRDS”) has already identified the contributing downtown historic structures (see Exhibit B), but the City must rank these buildings as to importance to the downtown revitalization/redevelopment. Structure size, historical importance, current condition and current use should be used to create a triage schedule:

  • Buildings that must be saved
  • Buildings that should be saved
  • Buildings that may have to be demolished

Non-contributing structures should be scheduled as well, but take second position to any contributing historic structure. The schedules would be used to identify problem buildings and possible long-term strategies to deal with them.

Recommendations:

  • Ask the Mayor to identify a current City employee as the City Historic Coordinator, and have that person attend the DMA meetings when historic structures are discussed.
  • The DMA will prepare a list of historic buildings, based on the NRDS survey list, with recommended ranking in development importance, subjectto Linton City Council approval. The time frame in which the list would be prepared would be within one to two years after the DMA is formed, to allow the individual building condition files to be created. Knowing the condition of an individual building would be very important in deciding how to rank its development potential.

Housing Options

Residential living had a place in historic Linton, and could play an important role in stabilizing the downtown today. Encouraging people to be downtown can only improve economic opportunities for downtown businesses, and possibly bring in additional tax revenues by using underutilized buildings as residences. Historically, the second and third floors of downtown commercial buildings were either residences for the owner/operators or rental apartments. Of course, commercial downtown success should result in a renewed interest in living downtown, and a renewed residential presence in downtown Linton would result in more patronage of downtown businesses. Existing affordable rental housing developments in Linton maintain long waiting lists, so one of the goals of revitalization of the downtown would be to encourage the production of such housing within the targeted area. The construction of an affordable downtown senior housing development could be achieved within two to three years, and would provide Linton seniors with an additional housing option. Various State and local programs exist that could be utilized to help finance existing building adaptive reuse into housing, thereby injecting much-needed investment capital into the downtown, and probably lifting property values and thus tax revenues.

Recommendations:

  • Research grant and low-interest loan programs to determine the viability of downtown housing. See Exhibit F to see a partial list of housing programs that could be utilized to encourage housing development within the target area.
  • Identify areas within the downtown that could be developed as residential sites. The time frame to complete the recommendations would be one to two years after the formation of the DMA.

Family, Health and Social Services

  • These services are the building blocks for creating a healthy and stable society. The objectives of this component of downtown revitalization would be:
    • Improve the delivery and availability of family support services located in the downtown and serving greater Linton;
    • Support the service needs of the downtown area residents by identifying their needs through surveys;
    • Promote the programs offered by the Carnegie Heritage Art Center, the Linton Public Library, and the Pace Community Action Agency;
    • Utilize the information gathered by survey to develop a plan to locate service providers within the downtown area;
    • Create areas of play and recreation to make the downtown a more family- friendly place.

    Recreation Development

    One of the drawbacks of downtown Linton is related to how the City developed around the busiest streets without regard to green spaces. Contrast the Linton downtown with Bloomfield’s downtown, which is centered around the courthouse square. The greenspace of the square, in conjunction with the County Courthouse, offers the downtown user the opportunity to relax and reflect, as well as providing the defining sense of place for Bloomfield. There is no corresponding location for

    Linton; the old City Building (now vacant) at 59 NW A Street, or the original Carnegie Library (now the Carnegie Heritage Art Center), offer the best alternative public common spaces.

    The existing downtown needs relief from paving and hard surfaces- street trees, sidewalk planters and mini-parks would all help diminish the hard appearance currently existing. In addition, such amenities would filter vehicle exhaust, reduce vehicle noise, and provide places to rest, or walk your dog, or use your e-reader and cell phone. Elwood, Indiana, a city similar in size to Linton, had excellent results in 2004 when it introduced street trees and mini-parks into the downtown. Green amenities can be introduced into the downtown by adding landscape features into existing parking areas. Mini-parks can create areas for cart vendors to work during high traffic periods.

    Recommendations:

    • City should research State funding to see if streetscaping can fit into a highway repair/maintenance program, similar to what was accomplished in Elwood, Indiana. This is a long lead item, with a time frame of one to five years, and the availability of funding will likely be the controlling factor in the success of an INDOT project to improve the downtown roadways.
    • The DMA and the City should identify locations for potential small parks/greenspaces/planter locations throughout downtown. The City could enter into an agreement with a local florist/landscaping company allowing the private entity to advertise with a sign on the greenspace in exchange for taking care of the plantings (similar to the street median sponsorships throughout Indiana).

    Neighborhood Safety

    Many of the other aspects of the Revitalization Plan lead into the subject of public safety in downtown Linton. The greater the number of people on the downtown streets, the safer downtown will be, so by encouraging economic activity and housing the level of public safety will rise. Having fire and police services located downtown should be used as a marketing tool for the Downtown Merchants Association in attracting new businesses. A program of improving street safety lighting should be part of the regularly scheduled utility maintenance, so as downtown areas are improved the safety lighting will be part of the improvement.

    Attachments:

    Exhibit A: Map of the Goose Pond Recreational Area and its relationship to the City of Linton

    Exhibit B: Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, “Linton Commercial Historic District”, Application and Web address.

    Exhibit C: Map of downtown Linton with the targeted redevelopment/revitalization area clearly delineated.

    Exhibit D: Partial list of funding sources and programs that could be utilized to fund public improvements within the targeted area.

    Exhibit E: Example Existing Building Evaluation Form, to be created for every non-occupied building in the targeted area.

    Exhibit F: Partial list of housing programs that could be utilized to develop housing within the targeted area of redevelopment/revitalization.

    Exhibit D:

    Partial List of Funding Sources & Programs Available To Fund Public Improvements In Downtown Linton

    1. Community Development Block Grant Program Community Focus Fund

    Administered by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs

    Used primarily for infrastructure improvements, although some Indiana communities have used these grants for downtown façade improvements.

    2. New Markets Tax Credit Program

    US Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund

    Loans to help finance community development projects, stimulate economic growth, and create jobs.

    3. Indiana Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program Administered by the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Indiana

    Department of Natural Resources

    Tax credits against Indiana State Income tax for qualified rehabilitation or reuse of an Indiana historic building.

    4. Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit Incentive

    National Park Service

    Tax credits against Federal Income Tax for qualified rehabilitation of a building on the National Register of Historic Places.

    5. Indiana Property Tax Deduction Program

    State of Indiana

    Credit towards Indiana property tax for rehabilitation of Indiana historic structures.

    6. Downtown Enhancement Grants- Indiana Main Street Program

    State of Indiana

    Grants for downtown enhancements such as façade restoration, signage, etc.

    7. Tax Increment Financing State of Indiana

    Leverages tax income within a designated area, typically used to retire debt incurred for infrastructure improvements.

    Exhibit E

    Attach Photo

    Example Existing Building Evaluation Form

    1. Street Address: _______________________

    2. Tax Parcel ID #: ______________________

    3. Owner & Contact Information: ________________________________

    __________________________________________________________

    __________________________________________________________

    4. Property Description, Parcel Size: ______________________________

    __________________________________________________________

    __________________________________________________________

    5. Property Taxes Paid Through: _________________________________

    6. Any Current Legal Proceedings? Describe: ______________________

    __________________________________________________________

    __________________________________________________________

    7. In Historic District? ________ Contributing Building? ____________

    8. Current Use: ______________________________________________

    if unoccupied, when was building last used? _____________________

    what was it used for? _______________________________________

    9. Survey Available & Location? ________________________________

    _________________________________________________________

    10. Utilities Serving: __________________________________________

    any utility bills due? ________________________________________

    11. Parking Availability? ______________________________________

    12. Professional Evaluations Available & Location? _________________

    _________________________________________________________

    13. Overall Condition/Observations/General Comments: ______________

    _________________________________________________________

    _________________________________________________________

    _________________________________________________________

    Exhibit F

    Partial List of Funding Sources & Programs Available To Fund Housing In

    Downtown Linton

    1. Indiana Affordable Housing and Community Development Fund State of Indiana

    Helps local communities finance and develop a broad range of housing solutions. Leverages private investment.

    2. HOME Funds

    Federal funds administered by the State of Indiana

    The HOME Program uses Federal Dollars to create affordable housing. Leverages private investment.

    3. Indiana Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program

    Administered by the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Indiana Department of Natural Resources Tax credits against Indiana State Income tax for qualified rehabilitation or reuse of an Indiana historic building.

    4. Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit Incentive National Park Service

    Tax credits against Federal Income Tax for qualified rehabilitation of a building on the National Register of Historic Places.

    5. Rental Housing Tax Credits Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority

    Federal Dollars administered by the State of Indiana to leverage private investment into affordable rental housing for seniors and families.

    Exhibit B

    Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic preservation and Archaeology, “Linton Commercial Historic District” Application and Web address

    http://www.in.gov/dnr/historic/files/lintonhd.pdf