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Town of North Liberty

Town of North Liberty

Town of North Liberty

STELLAR PROJECTS

  • Potato Creek Trail
  • Senior Housing
  • Marketing/Tourism
  • Spray Pad
  • Healthy Living Initiative
  • Façade Program
  • Senior Housing Infrastructure
  • WPA Phase II
  • Shamrock Alley Greening

BACKGROUND

Located just a few minutes from one of Indiana’s most popular parks, Potato Creek state park, North Liberty welcomes thousands of tourists every year. In addition to this constant influx of people, North Liberty has seen a 25 percent increase in residents in the last 10 years. Compared to similar rural communities, this is an unusual characteristic. The community’s pursuit of Stellar was motivated by their growth and need to focus on the residents. While maintaining a constant flow of visitors, North Liberty recognized a need to focus on the quality of life for their residents and the importance of setting up their community for a successful future.

NORTH LIBERTY’S PERSPECTIVE 

From the beginning of North Liberty’s Stellar story, they committed to narrowing their vision and recognizing what is best for their community. With positive momentum on their side, they saw a key opportunity to take advantage of their situation through Stellar.

Vicki Kitchen, North Liberty’s clerk-treasurer, said, “When people are thinking about developing, they look up Stellar. It wakes them up and shows them what a small community can do.”

For the Stellar application, the Stellar planning committee conducted a survey for individuals who were from outside the community. Specifically, they wanted to know why they choose to come to North Liberty. Based on the responses to this question, they strategically chose projects that played into the tourists’ interests while keeping the residents best interest in mind.

“There’s a fine line between remaining a viable downtown and being a tourist attraction,” Sue Solmos, North Liberty’s previous main street director, said. As the designation announcement date approached, the community of North Liberty rallied behind the vision of the Stellar committee. The day before site visits, an overwhelming number of community members participated in a clean-up of the local park.

“It’s really given our residents a sense of community,” Kitchen said. “It highlights something else that sets us apart from other communities. We’re always asking the question: ‘What can we do for you?’”

Unfortunately, the initial support that community provided didn’t correlate in the months following the designation’s announcement. One of the Stellar projects, the façade program, required downtown building owners to contribute a percentage of funds for the renovations. Very few opted to participate.

In general, the residents felt disconnected from the Stellar program and the projects that they wanted to see. 
The lack of physical progress didn’t accurately reflect the progress that was being made. In retrospect, Kitchen said that she would have been more proactive with communication during the planning phase.

“Although you can’t get moving on all of the projects immediately, promotion can,” Solmos said. “We kept the community involved as much as we could, but they want to see results.”
Throughout the whole process the Stellar planning committee maintained a flexible perspective and aptitude. Their priority, despite any setback, was to compliment what was going on in their community. They primarily achieved this through conversation and research.

Most notably, North Liberty sought the advice of previous Stellar designees and met with state agencies affiliated with Stellar to answer their questions.

“We were able to talk about all sorts of things. I thought it was so beneficial because (knowing we had won Stellar) we didn’t’ have the fear of saying anything wrong,” Kitchen said. With this added perspective, the Stellar planning committee tackled several projects that appealed to a wide majority of target audiences within the community. All the while, they ensured that their decisions were in line with the city’s comprehensive plan.

As of 2018, North Liberty is in implementation stage of Stellar and is breaking ground on their first Stellar projects. Despite just getting starting, they already are experiencing the benefits the designation.

“This designation has been invaluable. It’s why these projects are happening and why we’re attracting developers,” Solmos said.

According to Solmos, it’s impacted the city’s relationships as well.  “We’re a small community and people didn’t realize what we had to offer before. Since this designation, our relationship with the greater community and the state has changed. They are some of our biggest supporters.”

For more information on North Liberty's progress, read their latest quarterly report