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Old March 9th, 2007, 02:45 PM   #101
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Gubment approves subsidy for new downtown hotel/museum


Next month, this old, now gutted theater will be demolished, and replaced with a twin of the old Tribune Building. The first three floors will house the Terre Haute Children's Science and Technology Museum.

Published: March 08, 2007 11:51 pm

City council transfers final money for hotel, museum
Staff reports
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Terre Haute City Council transferred the last of city funds dedicated to a downtown development project during its business meeting Thursday night.

With a 7-2 vote, the council approved transferring about $1.9 million from the city’s Rainy Day fund to the Economic Development Income Tax fund. The revenue was money owed to the city from EDIT funds previously collected by state officials.

The City of Terre Haute allocated $1 million for matching donations for the Terre Haute Children’s Museum’s new downtown location in the 700 block of Wabash Avenue.

Burke wanted $1 million of the new funds to cover the city’s allocation to the museum, which is part of a joint effort with Candlewood Suites, an extended-stay hotel to be built at the renovated Tribune Building downtown.

Although EDIT funds are accounted for when the City Council passes the city’s annual budget, Burke is allowed to utilize EDIT funds as additional projects — such as the Candlewood Suites/Children’s Museum effort — come up.

Councilmen Ryan Cummins, R-2nd, and Norm Loudermilk, D-3rd, rejected the transfer.
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Old March 10th, 2007, 04:28 AM   #102
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Beautiful Stars of NCAA Div III Track and Field in TH



From wthitv.com, the Valley's [self-proclaimed] News Leader!

NCAA Championship Good for City
03/09/2007 19:21:03

By Liz Nichols

They may not have been to Terre Haute before or even heard the name, but after this weekend, the athletes competing to be the best in track and field are taking notice of what the city has to offer.

Caitlin Perra is an athlete from the University of Wisconsin at Lacrosse. "They're greeting everyone with smiles on their faces and it's really a warming welcome"

700 athletes will be in town this weekend. And while they're here, they'll be staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, and spending time here in Terre Haute.

Local businesses, like the Best Western hotel are glad they're here. Denise Story, sales manager at the Best Western Hotel in Terre Haute says, "We've been booked solid for a month and a half. I've taken 72 phone calls on Sunday about the Track and Field championships."

It's a chance for the city to show the out-of-towners what Terre Haute is all about.

Rose Hulman and Terre Haute host events throughout the year, many of them attracting out of town visitors. And on weekends like these, the city hopes to raise the bar and keep these visitors cheering.

You can catch all the action at Rose Hulman Friday and Saturday. The cost is just $5 a day and events begin at noon.

and this, from the TH Tribune-Star

Published: March 10, 2007 09:32 pm

Rose-Hulman, Terre Haute go all out for NCAA Division III Track & Field Championships
By Deb McKee
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Two years of preparation came together this weekend to ensure student-athletes from all over the United States would have a first-class experience in Terre Haute.

The NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track & Field Championships, hosted at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Sports and Recreation Center, brought more than 1,000 student-athletes, coaches, officials and parents from 30 states to the city.

While it was the fourth NCAA Division III national championship that the college has hosted, this was the first time for this particular sport.

Kevin Lanke, Rose-Hulman’s sports information director, said because track and field is an individual sport, the college was able to serve a much larger contingent than in the past.

“We have hosted team sports with four or six teams involved,” Lanke said. “With this, we had 400 student-athletes from 110 different schools that qualified for the meet. People from all over the country will be talking about Rose-Hulman and the city of Terre Haute … that’s the best thing that comes of something like this.”

Lanke said the championships were made possible by the help of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau, which partnered with Rose-Hulman and the NCAA committee to fund and facilitate the event.

“Dave Patterson [executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau] and his folks paid for the vast majority of all the signs,” Lanke said. “Without their support, this event wouldn’t be here.”

Several NCAA billboards welcoming teams to Terre Haute were placed along Interstate-70 from the Indianapolis International Airport and at Indiana-46 near I-70, as well as on Indiana 63 at the Covington exit.

The organizing committee included Larry Cole, Rose-Hulman's track and cross country coach; Matt Sinclair, director of Rose-Hulman's athletic facilities; Patterson; John McNichols and John Gartland, men's and women's track and cross country coaches at Indiana State University; and Lanke.

More than 200 volunteers helped coordinate the event, which began Thursday afternoon with registration. The competition began Friday at noon and continued through Saturday evening.

Josh Payne, chairman of the NCAA Division III indoor track & field committee, said his experience at Rose-Hulman through the week had been “wonderful. They’ve done a great job with preparations. Everyone’s been very hospitable, the whole community,” Payne added.

Payne, who also serves as the track coach at Hanover College in southern Indiana, said he hopes Rose-Hulman will host again in the future.

Kristin Steckmesser, assistant director of Championships at NCAA, said Rose-Hulman’s facility was “one of the best I’ve seen.”

In addition, Streckmesser said the planning by Rose-Hulman and the City of Terre Haute was obvious.

“Seeing all the billboards and signage, it brings a special feel to this event, which makes the athletes feel welcome,” she said.

Robin Yerkes, 19, a freshman runner for Roanoke College in Virginia, echoed that sentiment.

Yerkes, who flew into Indianapolis before driving with her coach to Terre Haute, said seeing the NCAA signs along the highway was “so good. Track doesn’t always get the hype that other sports get, so that really meant something.”

Yerkes, the only member of her team to qualify for nationals, said she and her parents took a drive around Terre Haute. Yerkes said she was impressed with the “cute little town” and Rose-Hulman’s athletic facility. “It’s an amazing track – a really fast track,” she added.

Yerkes’ family lives in Annapolis, Md.

Robin’s mother Andrea said they had enjoyed their stay and felt like the city and Rose-Hulman was “well-prepared” for the meet.

Lanke said during the bidding process for hosting the event, Rose-Hulman relied on the quality of the athletic facility and first-class treatment of student-athletes upon arrival.

Rick Witt, track coach for the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, said it makes the students feel special when they come to a town like Terre Haute and the athletic event is “the big thing going on.”

“In comparison to being somewhere like Boston or L.A. where you’re not the biggest thing in town, the kids feel like they’re the main event,” Witt said.

Witt and 15 athletes, both men and women, made the eight and a half hour bus ride to Terre Haute from Wisconsin on Wednesday.

“People have gone out of their way to make us feel at home,” he said.

Patterson, of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, “As cool as it is for the athletes to be led into town by all the signs, when they drive down over that hill at Rose-Hulman and see the athletic facility … that facility, and everyone there, is just first-class.”

Meet director and Rose-Hulman track coach Larry Cole said, “It’s hard to describe when you put two years of your life into something. I’ve been coaching for 30 years, and we’ve taken what we’ve seen at different meets over that time and tried to put on the best meet that’s ever been held in Division III.

“I think we’re heading in that direction,” Cole said.

Deb McKee can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or [email protected].

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Old March 13th, 2007, 01:47 PM   #103
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New Sculpture in Gilbert Park, Central East Side


Penny Postcard of Steeg Park, renamed Gilbert Park. The fountain is gone, but a new sculpture will find a home in the park.

Published: March 12, 2007 11:57 pm


ISU alumna sculpture will sit in Gilbert Park


By Crystal Garcia
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — When Vincennes native Lauren Ewing started making art, she wanted to make things about society and culture.

“I wanted to make art that wasn’t about me, it was about we,” she told a crowd of about 25 on Monday afternoon at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. “I’m not interested in doing pieces that have to do with lost love or dark moods. I’m really interested in making work that has to do with ideas in the world and the world that I see.”

Ewing, an Indiana State University alumna, is making a “Terre Haute House” sculpture for Gilbert Park.

She spoke about some of her work, the Terre Haute project and future plans at Rose-Hulman.

Gilbert Park was chosen as the sculpture’s home because of its central location in the city and on Wabash Avenue as well as the fact that the neighborhood around the park is full of houses the project models, Ewing said.

Modeled after what Ewing said is a “very common house type,” the sculpture will be 3 feet tall, 5 feet wide and 7 feet long, made out of Indiana limestone from Mansfield Stone Co. of Brazil.

There will be a space between the edge of the base and the body of the sculpture where people can sit.

This type of house continues to exist for many reasons, Ewing told the crowd. It has a cross bay that lets light into narrow lots and allows each room to have one to three windows.

Its pyramid structure allows the back of the house to be wide and the ceilings to be tall, which lets more light and air in throughout the house, she said.

“We took measurements and then crunched all the numbers of the five or six most typical of these houses and made a hybrid,” she said. “A composite house that appropriates all of the features of this house type.”

Many things must be considered when making a public sculpture, she said. One of the most important is public safety.

The piece shouldn’t have corners or areas people can be trapped in, it shouldn’t be too high in case children try to climb it or have any sharp surfaces, she said.

“There are just certain rules that have to do with public safety that you have to observe,” Ewing said. “I’ve never been in a situation where people try to censor my content, but the physical nature of the piece, yes. It can’t be a dangerous piece.”

One special circumstance for Indiana is that it sits in an earthquake zone, with a fault line running through.

“We have to put it on a foundation that is very sturdy so that in the event of an earthquake, it’s not going to roll over on somebody and squash them,” she said.

Some funding for this project came from a $5,000 Community Arts Grant that Arts Spaces Inc., Wabash Valley Outdoor Sculpture Collection received in July. Other funding came from an individual donation and some in-kind donations, executive director Mary Kramer said.

Also, Ewing donated some of her time, labor and materials. Arts Spaces is still raising the remaining funds needed, Kramer said.

It is expected to cost $22,000 to complete.

“I’m really excited about it,” Kramer said. “ … I think it’s something Terre Haute can be very proud of.”

Cutting and shaping the limestone has started. Ewing said parts should be moving to the park by the middle or end of summer.

Crystal Garcia can be reached at (812) 231-4271 or [email protected].
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Old March 13th, 2007, 01:50 PM   #104
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Local Record Store moves downtown


Revolutions, once housed in a non-descript strip mall next to the sewage treatment plant, finds on home in an historic building next to the Coffee Grounds , pictured above.

Published: March 12, 2007 11:44 pm

Music, CD shop moves into downtown to be closer to Indiana State’s campus

By Arthur E. Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Revolutions, a music and CD shop, has opened for business in downtown Terre Haute.

The music store, which had been on West Honey Creek Drive for about 10 years, now will be at 421 Wabash Ave., next door to The Coffee Grounds.

“We wanted to be close to [the Indiana State University] campus,” said Chuck Crabb, co-owner of Revolutions.

Crabb, 28, and his wife Rachael, 26, bought Revolutions about a year ago, he said.

“I think it’s going to be a nice addition to downtown,” said Pete Wilson, owner of The Coffee Grounds and owner of the building at 421-423 Wabash Ave. “We’re glad to have them.”

Wilson, 40, who also owns the Brazil Coffee Co. on National Avenue in Brazil, has plans to renovate the facade of the 110- year-old building in which The Coffee Grounds and Revolutions are located, he said. The renovations, which may begin later this year, will preserve some of the three-story Victorian building’s original look, Wilson said.

“I’m really excited about this,” said Andrew Conner, executive director of Downtown Terre Haute, Inc., a not-for-profit organization dedicated to downtown revitalization.

A CD and record shop is one of the types of businesses Downtown Terre Haute Inc. has targeted in strategic plans to make the downtown more attractive to customers and businesses, he said.

“I think it’s going to be a big draw for college students” and support more weekend and evening business activity downtown, Conner said. “It’s especially gratifying to see this type of business” move downtown, he said.

“I just think it’s really important that we keep these old buildings [downtown],” Crabb said, looking around his new Wabash Avenue location. He also is excited about other recent investment in the city’s downtown, he said.

“I wanted to be a part of that,” Crabb said.

The new Revolutions shop is about “half” the size of the old location, Crabb said; however, lower operating costs, along with a closer proximity to ISU, made the decision to move a good one, he said.

The new music store is about 1,800 square feet, Wilson said.

Bobbi Southwood, the property manager for Revolutions’ former location, on West Honey Creek Drive behind Honey Creek Mall, is hoping to attract a sports or fitness business to replace the former music shop. The anchor tenant in that strip mall is a health and fitness center, Southwood said.

A grand opening for Revolutions’ new downtown location is planned in the coming weeks, Crabb said. The Crabbs also hope to launch a Web site for their business soon.

Revolutions will sell CDs, records, posters, T-shirts and body jewelry, Crabb said. They also will buy used records and CDs, he said.

“We’ve always liked music,” Crabb said. “It’s our generation’s type of store.”

Arthur Foulkes can be contacted at (812) 231-4232 or [email protected].
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Old March 13th, 2007, 01:55 PM   #105
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Second of Six Surveys of Urban Life nearly complete


Dede Plaza, at the center of the Indiana State University Campus. Students in the university's Sociology Research Lab are completing a survey requested by the City of Terre Haute gauging residents' thoughts and concerns about city issues and plans.

Published: March 12, 2007 11:50 pm

ISU survey asks about future, city projects

By Austin Arceo
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The City of Terre Haute’s new survey, which is currently under way, questions local residents about quality-of-life-issues.

The survey, the second in a series of its kind, gauges local residents’ reactions to issues affecting them on a routine basis, from emergency response to garbage collection. Other questions focus on infrastructure projects and local residents’ optimism for the future.

It seems some respondents, who also are registered voters, are quite willing to speak on those issues.

“It’s amazing,” said Tom Steiger, director of Indiana State University’s Sociology Research Lab, which is conducting the survey. “They really have a lot to say about these issues, so our interviews go quite a bit longer than what they need to because we don’t collect all that data.”

While interviewers don’t copy down an entire response, answer options given to respondents are recorded. In one section, for example, people give a letter grade (as if on a report card). For other questions, people choose a multiple-choice answer that best gauges their satisfaction.

“What we want to do is build a firm base of knowledge about public attitudes toward city government and the things that city government does,” Terre Haute communications director Peter Ciancone said.

Last year, Terre Haute agreed to pay $16,550 for six surveys, the first of which was conducted last fall, and will continue twice a year until 2009.

The inaugural survey focused on several issues, including residents’ use of Terre Haute parks and potential government responses to the annual winter crow roost.

Ciancone said the spring survey was kept “shorter, more general” than the fall survey because officials would have more planning time for the autumn inquiry.

The spring survey questions residents on more than 10 recent local projects, including closing part of Seventh Street for the Union Hospital expansion and the arts corridor renovations, also along Seventh Street.

Terre Haute Mayor Kevin Burke denied that asking respondents about city projects is done to evaluate his term in office.

“I simply want to use any and all avenues we have at our disposal to find out what the wishes of the people are,” Burke said, “and I have to say that, just because it’s an election year” it doesn’t mean “that we stop doing our job.”

The fall survey affirmed city officials’ decision to pursue riverfront development, he added, while respondents also gave them several ideas about how to develop the riverfront.

Michael Faber, a political science professor at DePauw University, previously remarked that it was not uncommon for communities to gauge public response through surveys.

The spring survey also questions respondents about their opinion of Terre Haute as a clean, safe city. It also questions city residents on their expectation of the quality of life in Terre Haute in five years.

Although the survey is about two-thirds of the way done, Steiger said responses indicate that “people seem to be pretty upbeat on the future.”

Austin Arceo can be reached at (812) 231-4214 or [email protected].

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Old March 13th, 2007, 02:22 PM   #106
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Some old aerials of Indiana State University

Sorry these are enormous...

From the Archives of Indiana State University:

1927


1937


1959


1966 - a good view of downtown, thought it was quickly atrophying


1973 - another good view of Downtown, and the Hulman Civic Center under construction



more on the way...
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Old March 15th, 2007, 01:40 AM   #107
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Morton Marcus on TH

I generally enjoy Marcus' wit and insight, but I think one of his diagnoses of Terre Haute's ills is waaaaay off. He mentions that downtown Terre Haute died when the city routed I-70 to the south side, rather than through downtown, and says (perhaps rightfully) that downtown Indy would have died without the interstates. Perhaps. But there were never plans to run I-70 through the city- the original route was on the north side. Running the highway through the middle of the city (unheard of anywhere in Indiana for a comparably sized city) would have ruined countless neighborhoods and likely would have made the situation worse, not better.


Interstate 70 under construction near Indiana 63, southwest side, late 1960s (?)
Published: March 13, 2007 11:28 pm

IU economist ties education to economic development
By Arthur E. Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The best way to promote economic development in Terre Haute, according to Indiana University economist Morton Marcus, is to make area high schools “rank among the very best in the state.”

“High schools are the most important economic development tool in each community,” said Marcus, who was speaking Tuesday evening at Indiana State University.

“Who wants to come to your community if your schools are known to be inadequate?” Marcus asked. Good schools can give a community a step ahead in terms of economic development, he said.

Marcus, director emeritus of the Indiana Business Research Center at IU’s Kelley School of Business, also noted that a college education is not always best use of a young person’s time and he criticized what he called the “trade school” attitude that “we have … had imposed upon us that says you go to school in order to make money.”

“The point of getting an education … is not to earn an income,” Marcus said. Receiving a formal college education is a way to become part of an organization, he said, adding, “if you want to make money, you get a good idea and you push it with all the energy that you have when you’re 18 … 21 years old. Otherwise you’ll be wasting time in school,” Marcus said.

Speaking to a gathering of some 60-80 people in ISU’s Cunningham Memorial Library, Marcus also said Terre Haute’s leaders “killed downtown” years ago when they neglected to allow Interstate 70 to pass through the middle of the city. Indianapolis’ downtown growth, Marcus said, is a result of the highway system being easily accessible from the heart of the city.

“That’s what kept [downtown] Indianapolis alive,” Marcus said.

Marcus does not believe Terre Haute’s downtown is a lost cause, however. He said Terre Haute needs a “reimagining” of its downtown.

“You need a downtown that’s different,” Marcus said, adding that ISU’s student population should provide much of the commerce and direction for downtown development.

Marcus also pointed to what he called Vigo County’s “surprisingly small” Hispanic population as an indicator that “the opportunities for growth and employment are not here. You don’t have enough new restaurants coming in. You don’t have enough people wanting to hire somebody to fix the lawn. Why? Because your wages are too low,” he said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 4.5 percent of Indiana’s population in 2005 was of Hispanic or Latino origin compared with 1.3 percent in Vigo County.

Also at the gathering, sponsored by the Friends of ISU’s Cunningham Memorial Library, Marcus lamented that the steel and automobile industries are the major industries in Indiana today.

“Stupidity reigns” in these industries, Marcus said. The American automobile industry is not meeting the demands of American consumers, he said. He suggested that American car makers should concentrate on making less multi-purpose automobiles and focus on making small, efficient cars for daily, in-town driving and other vehicles for other purposes.

Marcus further noted that he is not concerned about a so-called “brain drain” from the Hoosier state, calling attempts to keep Indiana’s kids in the state a mistake. It is better to encourage young people to leave the state and attract new people from other areas to move here, he said.

“We have an inadequacy of brain-inflow,” not a brain drain, Marcus said. “Too many people in Indiana have not seen the rest of the world.”

In other comments, Marcus said the U.S. economy is fundamentally in good shape, while Indiana and especially Terre Haute are lagging behind.

“We do not see the kind of growth in our communities statewide and in this community in particular that we have seen elsewhere in the country,” Marcus said.

Marcus also spoke out in favor of Indiana’s moves toward all-day kindergarten, criticized government policies restricting the number of people who can be trained as physicians (causing health care costs to be higher than they would otherwise be) and denounced other public policies that he said are detrimental to public well being, such as tax deductions for borrowing, which encourages debt and discourage savings, he said.

“That’s one of the things that we as a society don’t do. We don’t save money.” A lack of individual savings means when something bad happens in someone’s life, such as a job loss or ill health, Marcus said, “we’re on the brink of bankruptcy. We are a society that does not protect itself” or practice “safe economic behavior,” he said.

Arthur Foulkes can be contacted at (812) 231-4232 or [email protected].
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Old March 17th, 2007, 06:41 AM   #108
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Vigo County Industrial Park, south of Terre Haute.
Published: March 16, 2007 10:38 pm

Terre Haute ranks as one of top small cities for economic development
By Austin Arceo

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — An economic development magazine ranks Terre Haute as one of the top small cities in the nation for creating and expanding corporate facilities last year.

Terre Haute tied for seventh among metropolitan areas with a population between 50,000 and 200,000 people by attracting nine economic development projects to the area in 2006, according to this month’s edition of “Site Selection,” which advertises itself as “the oldest publication in the corporate real estate and economic development field.”

The projects needed at least $1 million worth of investment; or 20,000 or more new square feet of facility space; or 50 new employees, said Adam Bruns, the managing editor of “Site Selection.”

In addition, new construction must be taking place for a development project to be added to the list, he said.

Several companies either relocated or renovated existing facilities in Terre Haute and Vigo County last year. Pfizer, for example, announced a $175 million local expansion that is expected to create 450 new jobs, according to a Terre Haute Economic Development Corp. news release.

CertainTeed Corp., Boral Bricks and Staples also were among the companies expanding local operations last year.

“ …Those are world-class companies and household names who have chosen to make a significant investment in Terre Haute and Vigo County,” said Steve Witt, president of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., “and I think that’s something we should be real proud of and try to replicate in the future.”

Terre Haute wasn’t the only Hoosier city to make the magazine’s top lists. Fort Wayne ranked ninth among metropolitan areas with a population of between 200,000 to 1 million people; and Indianapolis finished ninth in a category of metropolitan areas with a population of more than 1 million people.

“I would certainly say given Indiana’s economic development momentum over the past year or so, that Terre Haute is a part of that,” Bruns said.

Austin Arceo can be reached at (812) 231-4214 or [email protected].
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Old March 21st, 2007, 08:21 AM   #109
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Business Boxers

Four short biz briefs from Terry Hut:

New Indian Restaurant; New pie-house downtown; TH's third Starbucks; Plaza North expects new tenants soon




I

TERRE HAUTE — It may not be one of the “seven wonders of the world” like the original south of New Delhi, but a new Indian restaurant, the Taj Mahal, has opened on South Third Street in Terre Haute.

Dharminder Singh, who also owns the Sunoco gas station and Sunmart grocery at 408 S. Seventh St., opened the Indian cuisine restaurant in the old I-HOP building at 1349 S. Third St. on March 2.

Singh said the Sunmart, which features Indian and Middle Eastern dishes and groceries, has had such a great response locally he decided to open the new restaurant. Now the Taj Mahal, which he describes as serving northern Indian cuisine, is exceeding his expectations.

“It’s really working great there,” Singh said speaking on his cell phone while on his weekly grocery and fresh vegetable trip to Chicago. “I was not expecting this much response.”

Singh and his wife, Rupinder, manage the Taj Mahal along with the Sunmart, he said. The couple also owns a grocery store and restaurant in Illinois.

If you’re not sure if you can handle Indian food, Singh said it can be ordered mild or hot. He is considering trying a Sunday buffet to allow customers to try a variety of different foods.

II

The Grand Traverse Pie Co., a Michigan-based franchise restaurant chain, is, appropriately enough, coming to Cherry Street in Terre Haute.

The restaurant, started in 1996 in Traverse City, Mich., by Mike Busley and his wife, Denise, features breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, including pot pies, wraps, quiches, soups, sandwiches, salads and, of course, pies.

“We make [pies] from scratch every day,” said Busley. “We don’t truck them in.”

The Terre Haute franchise will be operated by Wright Properties, an Evansville-based, family-owned business.

“There’s nothing out there like [Grand Traverse Pie Co.],” said Jeff Wright, a co-owner of Wright Properties. Wright’s company plans to open other G.T. Pie Co. restaurants in Evansville, New Albany, Bloomington and Indianapolis, Wright said.

Terre Haute’s G.T. Pie Co. should open in late May or early June and will be at Third and Cherry streets, Wright said. It was just “pure luck” that a restaurant born in northern Michigan’s cherry country will be on Cherry Street, he said.

The restaurant, which Busley describes as fun, warm and welcoming, will have seating for about 125 people, he said. It will offer dine-in and carry out services but no drive through window.

“We want to see people,” Busley said of the decision not to include drive up service. “It’s somewhat of an old fashioned philosophy.”

III

A new Starbucks Coffee Co. will be opening south of town along U.S. 41, said Henry Stadler, senior vice president and director of operations for Thompson Thrift, a locally-based real estate development and construction company.

The new coffee shop, which will be owned by the Starbucks corporation, will be in the former Dick’s Bodacious BBQ and Ritter’s Frozen Custard building at South Pointe Crossing just north of the intersection of Seventh Street and U.S. 41 South.

The Seattle-based coffee company has negotiated a 10-year lease with Thompson Thrift for the 2,200-square-foot, stand-alone building, Stadler said. Once the lease is executed, Thompson Thrift will begin working on plans to renovate the building, he said.

Thompson Thrift already leases space to a Starbucks in Noblesville, Stadler said.

This will be the third Starbucks to open in Terre Haute. The others are at 25th Street and Wabash Avenue and at Third Street and Margaret Avenue.

IV

The new owners of Plaza North shopping center on Fort Harrison Road are pleased with the response they are getting from retailers about opening shop in their newly acquired property in Terre Haute’s north end, said Howard Arnberg, a principal of Coastal Equities of Weston, Fla.

Coastal Equities expects to announce some new lease agreements in the next couple of weeks, Arnberg said. He also said the company is working on a drawing for a new facade for the shopping center.

“We want to make sure that when we redo the facade and we redo the center that it looks the way that we want it to look,” Arnberg said. “We’ve made a lot of good progress so far.”

Coastal Equities, which describes itself as a company that “invests in areas that others don’t find so fashionable,” purchased the 326,000 square foot Plaza North shopping center in January for $9,125,000, according to the company Web site.
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Old March 22nd, 2007, 03:38 PM   #110
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TIF district approved for Pfizer Exubera plant



Exubera is a new inhaled insulin product manufactured in Terre Haute.

Published: March 21, 2007 11:36 pm

County Council approves $4.515M TIF bond for Pfizer
By Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Pfizer has cut a temporary work force and reduced its total production days as it stockpiles Exubera, a powdered form of insulin.

The pharmaceutical company already has hired nearly 400 full-time workers over the past year to produce Exubera and Vigo County officials this week approved an incentive package as part of an economic development incentive to Pfizer.

The County Council on Tuesday approved the issuance of a $4.515 million tax increment finance, or TIF, bond. Taxes paid by Pfizer will fund the TIF bond payments, with the county’s income tax serving as a backup to secure the 15-year bond through 2021. The TIF could generate sufficient funds to redeem the bond by January 2019, two years earlier.

The total debt on the bond issue, with more than $2.9 million in interest, would be more than $7.4 million over 15 years.

However, Steve Witt, president of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., said Wednesday he thinks “it would just be good business for the county to meet with Pfizer to get an update on the status of the Exubera project before completing the sale of the TIF bond. We plan to contact

Pfizer officials to arrange

that meeting.”

Rick Chambers, Pfizer spokesman, said Wednesday that Pfizer last year brought in temporary contract workers to “help us build inventory for Exubera. Once we reached that inventory level that we needed to support the product, then the assignments for those temporary workers were concluded. That happened two weeks ago.

“That was always intended to be a temporary assignment,” he said.

In addition, Pfizer has stopped production of Exubera on Sundays.

In any manufacturing, Chambers said, “you base your production schedule in large part on need for the product.”

“We are at the inventory levels that we need and we are still in the process of pursuing the [Exubera] rollout, which began last fall. We’re at the place that we need to be and we have the inventory of Exubera that we need. We’re expecting that this product will continue to gain attention among physicians and patients,” Chambers said.

Brandweek, a publication that covers marketing of drugs, reported this month that Friedman, Billings, Ramsey analyst Jim Reddoch published numbers that suggest Pfizer has paid more to acquire and market the bong-like diabetic device used to inhale the powdered insulin than it can make back in sales.

Brandweek reported that in a note covering Nektar Therapeutics, the San Carlos, Calif., manufacturer of the Exubera device, Reddoch wrote: “With lackluster demand so far, Pfizer has built up nearly $800 million in Exubera inventory this year and, based on guidance, will have more than $1.5 billion in inventory by the end of this year (nearly three years’ worth of demand, based on our estimates). Pfizer will re-launch the product in April; this is probably the last chance to get traction with physicians and stimulate demand.”

Chambers said Pfizer has invested more than $300 million in the past five years on its Vigo County plant, south of Terre Haute, and over the past year has hired about 400 people, making its work force at nearly 800 there.

“We are still very much enthusiastic about the product and our future in Terre Haute,” Chambers said.

Pfizer has expanded its Exubera education rollout to primary physicians and has started to increase advertising, with direct-to-consumer advertising to start in the next couple of months, Chambers said. The company already is advertising in trade journals, Chambers said.

Robert Hellmann, president of the Vigo County Council, said the county is keeping its commitment made to Pfizer to provide at least $3.2 million in improvements. Even if Pfizer’s revenue forecast for Exubera sales is below initial estimates, the revenue generated from the established TIF district “is substantially more than the obligation on the TIF bond,” Hellmann said.

The TIF is projected to generate more than $11.7 million from Pfizer over a 15-year period, larger than the total debt on the bond of more than $7.4 million, he said.

The County Council plans to use $450,000 from the County Economic Development Income Tax, commonly called EDIT, to extend a waterline to Pfizer as well as establish a bond debt service reserve of $451,500 on the TIF bond.

Danisco Sweeteners now has use of several water wells formerly used by Pfizer, Witt said. The debt reserve will cover bond payments for a year should Pfizer’s taxes not be enough to cover payments.

In addition, another $552,125 of economic development income tax will be used to pay interest on the bonds through July 15, 2010. “It will be a few years before the Pfizer project is completed, yet interest will still be due on the bonds, so the county will pay that out of EDIT,” said Vigo County Auditor Jim Bramble.

The bond issue would cover $640,000 for a new intersection at Carlisle/Dallas roads; $562,000 for a new intersection at Carlisle/Pfizer roads; $700,000 for a new Carlisle/Harlan roads intersection; $725,000 for improvements to Harlan Road; $480,000 for a rail crossing signal on Harlan Road; and $550,000 for resurfacing Dallas Road from U.S. 41 to Carlisle Road.

It also includes $860,000 as a 20 percent match to resurface Harlan Road from Carlisle Road to Sullivan Place. The project’s total projected cost is $1.07 million, with the county seeking an 80 percent federal match.

Also, $1.6 million as a 20 percent match to resurface Harlan Road from Sullivan Place to Indiana 63. That project’s total projected cost is $2 million, also with the county seeking an 80 percent federal match.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or [email protected].
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Old March 23rd, 2007, 04:22 AM   #111
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Downtown Infill Incentives

This should have happened 20 years ago...

New Housing in Terre Haute
Dated: 03/22/2007 17:59:17
from wthitv.com

Story by Liz Nichols

The City's Department of Redevelopment has begun a new project.

But this one's not aimed at commercial development, instead it focuses on residential housing.

We've heard a lot about new "commercial" buildings downtown.. like the two hotels and the new Children's Museum.

Now we're going to start hearing about new homes..

Cities like indianapolis have done this in the past with great success and that's what the city is hoping for Terre Haute.

The plan will give incentives to people that build houses in some of the city's older neighborhoods.

The city hopes to turn vacant lots and condemned houses into bright new affordable homes.

We spoke with Cliff Lambert of the Department of Redevelopment.. and he considers this project a "win-win" situation.

"This brings us the opportunity to enhance our housing stock and make it newer. Put those vacant lots back on the property tax roles and the larger the pie the lower the tax rates and that helps everybody," says Lambert.

The city of Terre Haute has some of the oldest homes in the state.

In fact.. 70% of homes were built before 1950.

42% were built before 1939.

This redevelopment effort is open to private individuals as well as companies, to make streets like this one, a popular place to live.

If you're worried about how these "new" homes will look next to the old ones, the Department of Redevelopment says not to worry.

There are strict guidelines in place so both old and new will be compatible.

It will be interesting to see the changes that come to these downtown neighborhoods, and News 10 will be there.
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Old March 23rd, 2007, 11:17 AM   #112
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More on the city's infill initiative



Seventy percent of Terre Haute's homes are older than my parents (1950), nearly forty percent predate the German invasion of Poland (1939).

City offers builders’ incentives to develop vacant lots

Residential development program could save home builders as much as $12,000
By Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A new city residential development program may stimulate developers and licensed private individuals to build new houses in low- to moderate-income areas of Terre Haute.

The program offers incentives in a target area that covers about 70 percent of the city and can save home builders as much as $10,000 to $12,000, said Cliff Lambert, director of the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment.

“For the private developer to take a risk in some older neighborhoods that have been in transition, but are coming back [with new streets and sidewalks], if the city was to provide a package of incentives, it would perhaps make the financial opportunity of some value,” Lambert said.

Construction is being targeted for new homes in the $70,000 to $80,000 price range, which can be built on city-owned lots or privately owned lots.

Richard Jenkins Construction is building three homes, on South 13th 1/2 Street, Gilbert Avenue and 14th Street, under the program.

“It is an idea we’re hoping that can be expanded,” Jenkins said.

“It is an idea we’re hoping that can be expanded,” Jenkins said. Building new homes in a price range that people can afford can attract people who grew up in the city and want to return, Jenkins said.

The benefit to the city is an increase in the tax base and employment from construction jobs.

The program, with 15 requirements for developers, is available to contractors, as well as licensed and bonded individuals. Some requirements include the size of eligible sites, which must be 40 by 120 feet; the front door of the home must face a city street; and a new home must be completed within a year.

“None of the requirements are impediments and are not ridiculous standards,” said H. Dean Branson, real estate administrator for the city’s Redevelopment of Department.

New homes are wanted since nearly 70 percent of homes in the city were built before 1950, with more than 42 percent of those built before 1939, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

Branson said the city already is incurring expenses to maintain the vacant lots. The city has about 30 available lots that can be used under the program. The city pays about $70,000 annually to mow and maintain the lots, then tries to recoup its costs from property owners.

Terre Haute has had a site recovery program since the early 1980s, Lambert said, and the city’s Redevelopment Department, using federal funds, has built new streets, sidewalks and curbs in many neighborhoods.

The new program does not use federal funds, but is targeted at encouraging the infill of vacant housing lots in some of the older neighborhoods, Lambert said.

“As we look at the continued construction of homes and subdivisions literally outside the city boundaries, we thought that the city, through the Department of Redevelopment and Board of Public Works and Safety, owns many vacant lots … that we believe can be utilized for new, moderate home construction,” Lambert said.

Some incentives for all lots in the program include reimbursement of a $500 sewer tap on fee; and reimbursement up to $5,000 toward the following: repair of substandard sewer lateral pipe or installation of a new sewer lateral pipe between the property line and the public main sewer, repair of sidewalks and curbs “rated 6 or worse” by city engineering standards and repair of sidewalks, curbs, pavement or tree rows above a sewer.

Incentives for using city-owned lots are obtaining the building site for $1; a four-pin survey of the site; providing up to $100,000 of title insurance; and clearing trash, brush and undesirable trees.

Branson is the contact on the program and can be reached at (812) 232-0018, Ext. 13.
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Old March 24th, 2007, 08:30 AM   #113
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Erie Canal Road Project


The Wabash and Erie Canal (pictured here near Lagro), the world's longest upon completion in the 1850s at 453 miles, was routed around the small burg of Terre Haute. Railroad tracks now use the corridors, which run through the middle of the city. Now, a major highway will run along the route connecting the south end of Terre Haute with a new state road bypass, Indiana 641.

$24M Canal Road project ready to roll

Vigo County, CSX agree to build bridge over tracks near Feree Road
By Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A contract allowing construction over railroad tracks in southern Vigo County has put the Canal Road project on track for the start of construction this year.

County commissioners on Thursday signed a right-of-way agreement with CSX Transportation Inc., allowing the county to build a bridge over railroad tracks near Feree Road to connect to a reconstruction and realignment of McDaniel Road with Canal Road.

The new bridge, 2.4 miles south of Interstate 70, will be 40 to 45 feet tall as it stretches over the railroad tracks, said Jerry Netherlain, county engineer.

“The railroad agreement was the last step, so we’re on schedule to make a July letting for the project,” Netherlain said.

The entire Canal Road project, to be built in two phases, will cost nearly $24 million. It will link to the 641 bypass, a 6.2-mile road now under construction that will extend from U.S. 41 northeast to I-70. It also will link with the second phase of the City of Terre Haute’s 13th Street project.

Phase one is a $12 million project, with $8.8 million in federal funds and $3.2 million in county funds from the County Economic Development Income Tax, commonly called EDIT. This phase is scheduled to be completed in 2008.

Phase two is an $11.8 million project that will bring a four-lane road from the bridge to I-70 along Canal Road. That phase will include $8.8 million in county funds and $3 million in federal funds.

The county is still working to obtain parcels for the required right of way on phase two, Netherlain said.

“Funding for Canal Road and McDaniel Road is in place,” said Robert Hellmann, president of the Vigo County Council. “The funding and engineering approvals are complete and we’re on schedule to have phase one bid out this year and completed in 2008.”

Hellmann said phase two is on track to be bid in 2008 and completed in 2009.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or [email protected].
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Old March 25th, 2007, 03:03 AM   #114
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News of the weird...

I happened on to the new Google News archives, and found this headline from 1910:

MORE SMALLER CITIES GROW.; Terre Haute. Ind., Shows Most Growth (58.6 Per Cent.) on Latest Returns.

September 28, 1910, Wednesday


I couldn't access the text of the article (for free), but the headline shows how much has changed in the Midwest - few small cities ever record that kind of growth (suburbs excluded). However, it also shows that the processes going on today in the desert Southwest and California are not that different from a century ago.
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Old March 30th, 2007, 06:55 PM   #115
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Seventh Street -scape nearly complete

After delays, construction crews finishing Seventh Street Arts Corridor
By Austin Arceo
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — After design issues had created delays, construction crews are forging the final touches on the million-dollar Seventh Street Arts Corridor project.

Construction crews removed about an inch and a half of asphalt Thursday from South Seventh Street, said Brad Utz, director of inspection for the Terre Haute engineer’s office. Crews will level all the manhole covers before new asphalt will be poured, he added.

“They’re actually a little bit ahead of schedule of what they thought they’d be right now,” Utz said.

New decorative lighting, benches, trees and more than 20 parking spaces will be created along the stretch of South Seventh Street between Poplar Street and Wabash Avenue.

The project started last fall and was expected to be finished by the end of the year. But bump-outs, which narrow the street and provide additional sidewalk space for objects such as sculptures, created a drainage issue and delayed the final finish date.

The city spent nearly $50,000 to create a trench drain between the bump-outs and the sidewalk, which redirects water away from the sidewalk.

The city spent about $240,000 in all for the project, which cost about $1 million. A state grant in 2001 funded the rest of the initiative.

The last roadwork that will require street closures should be done by the end of next week; all road work should be finished by mid-to-late April, Utz said.

The construction will not finish the corridor. Five sculptures will line the arts pathway. The first will be near the Vigo County Public Library, with the second in front of the Sheldon Swope Art Museum.

Art Spaces Inc. — Wabash Valley Outdoor Sculpture Collection, an organization working with the city on the corridor project, has issued a request for proposals for the first two sculptures. The group hopes to name finalists by the end of April, with the artists selected in May.

“We expect to get a wide variety of responses,” said Mary Kramer, executive director of the organization. “We usually do.”

Art Spaces hopes to have the first two sculptures up by the end of the year, with the rest soon to follow.

“I think it’s going to be wonderful,” Kramer said of the finished corridor, “and I hope everyone else does, too.”

Austin Arceo can be reached at (812) 231-4214 or [email protected].
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Old April 2nd, 2007, 01:26 PM   #116
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Smaller construction projects suffer from lack of bidders...



Terre Haute's National Road Heritage Trail is, despite it's boring name, one of the gems of the city. Running along the eastern spine of the city, new trails are planned to connect schools, parks, and other trails. However, the growing number of large construction projects in the city has made it difficult to find bidders for these smaller, yet very important quality of life projects.


Storrow and Kinsella have drawn up plans for the Brown Avenue Connector, a boulevard and trail that will connect the main trail with Terre Haute North Vigo HS.

Problems slowing National Road Heritage Trail projects
By Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Putting the final touches on two projects on the National Road Heritage Trail along U.S. 40 on Terre Haute’s east side has not been easy.

The job at Twiggs Rest Area, city officials say, is not that difficult — build a new sewer lift station, a new bathroom/storage area and a playground as an added option.

“We went to bid in July and August of last year and had no bidders. Then we went to bid again in September last year and had a bidder; however, the bidder was eventually disqualified,” said Pat Martin, chief planner for the city.

The bid lacked a qualification for “disadvantaged business enterprise” participation, a federal requirement, said Debbie Calder, spokeswoman for Indiana Department of Transportation’s Crawfordsville district.


The trail east of Terre Haute, near Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, the best undergraduate engineering college in the US, and home of the Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts Summer Training Camp.

“We have a lot of statutory requirements and also a tight tolerance for awarding a bid,” Calder said. “Some of these people bidding may not know all of the steps required.”

The Twiggs project was then bid a fourth time last month, and that bid also was disqualified for not providing a drug-free workplace certification, Calder said.

Martin said the city also is having difficulty finding local contractors to bid on the project. Only six in the Wabash Valley have INDOT certification to bid on such projects, he said.

“We hope to bid it again as soon as possible,” Martin said.

The city’s transportation enhancement grant for the Twiggs project is $240,820. The last bid on the Twiggs Rest Area was $588,000. The extra cost is something the city is discussing with state officials. That cost likely will be covered by the state, as the rest area is state-owned, Martin said.

Another project, a trail extension called the Delmar & Betty Jones Trailhead, east of Twiggs Rest Area, has been bid out twice. And each time, the bids received have exceeded engineers’ estimates, said Larry Robbins, assistant city engineer.

The city, which owns the land for the trailhead, has a grant of $849,394 for that project, but the lowest bid on the first round was $1.2 million and the lowest bid increased to $1.6 million on a second round of bids, Robbins said.

“What we will have to do is look at individual costs and see where we can save. We can get more creative. It’s just frustrating as this is now about six months delayed. We were hoping to have it built in 2006,” Robbins said.

The city will soon start construction on a new trail, called the Brown Boulevard Trail, phase one. That will add 3,100 feet of trail from Wabash Avenue to Locust Street and east a block. The city has a grant of just over $337,000 for that project, to be bid in July.

Phase two on that trail includes a new section from Locust Street through new terrain to Maple Avenue, with a 10-foot-wide pedestrian bridge to connect to Maple Avenue, Robbins said. That work also includes grading and installing a storm sewer system. Final costs and engineering on the project will soon be completed, with a bid expected in late summer, Robbins said.

Part of that work is a precursor to developing a new four-lane boulevard from Locust to Maple, he said.

Martin said several projects in the city may be causing fewer contractors to bid on the smaller trail projects. The city in April will start a $6.5 million project, awarded to Feutz Contractors Inc. of Paris, Ill., to build the second phase of the 13th Street project that will link to a county road under Interstate 70. That project will take a year to complete.

There also is construction on Fourth Street, in Edgewood Grove, and construction of a multi-purpose transportation garage near Indiana State University’s Hulman Center. In addition, Martin said, there also is private sector construction under way of two new hotels and an expansion at Hulman & Co.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or [email protected].

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Old April 2nd, 2007, 01:34 PM   #117
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A map of existing and planned trails in Terre Haute

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Old April 8th, 2007, 01:48 AM   #118
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Regional Tidbits: Buses 'n' Lofts


Streetcars along Wabash Avenue many, many moons ago.
Bus Ridership up in Terre Haute
from wthitv.com

Terre Haute's bus system is doing better than ever these days.

With the new Mall Express and Saturday Service, officials tell News 10 they've seen an all time high in ridership.

And that means an increase in revenue by nearly 50 percent.

Brad Miller with the Terre Haute Street Department says the goal is to see even more people on the buses and make the system more attractive to everyone.

"Bus service is a quality of life issue. It's not something that's gonna make a profit. We're never gonna be able to run it and be profitable, and be like a business would be, because of the subsidy and everything else involved. So, what we're trying to do is making it as affordable as we can for everybody."

As fuel prices continue to go up, Miller expects even more riders to take advantage of the bus system.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

New Streetscaping in Downtown Vincennes
Dated: 04/04/2007 17:39:13 Updated: 04/05/2007 10:58:51
www.wthitv.com

A major downtown revitalization project comes closer to starting.

Downtown Vincennes is old and in need of some sprucing up.

The city now has $750,000 to carry out a renovation project.

Final work is being done on the plans, with bidding expected to start next month.

Construction will begin right after the 4th of July.

"We'll make that as positive as possible," said Vincennes Urban Enterprise Zone Director Buddy Rogers, "We'll probably have some days where we'll have some construction events. We'll have some music downtown for people. We'll have opportunities for people to come visit and view what's going on."

The work on the streets, sidewalks, and installation of new lighting is expected to take several months.

Officials hope to have it completed in time for the Christmas parade in November.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The city of Vincennes has also initiated a loft development program for downtown buildings, with grants of $10,000 for owners to develop unused upstairs space.

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Old April 8th, 2007, 01:50 AM   #119
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Burke for Mayor 2


Downtown Terre Haute, looking east, in 1952. Still the center of commerce in the middle Wabash Valley, the slow atrophy soon began as suburban shopping centers bloomed in the 1960s and 70s.

Terre Haute Mayoral elections are coming up - and it looks like the Tribune-Star has endorsed Burke for a second term. I agree, and think he will coast to a pretty easy victory.

Downtown progress jewel on mayor's resume
The Tribune-Star

Historically, incumbent mayors in Terre Haute have not enjoyed much job security.

Since Ralph Tucker served five terms in the 1950s and 1960s, winning re-election four times before retiring from public life, the political road has been littered with the names of incumbents whom voters decided to cast aside: Larrison. Brighton. Chalos. Jenkins. Anderson. Each ultimately failed in their quest for another term.

Pete Chalos was the most successful, winning re-election three times before losing the primary.

Since Chalos lost his final re-election bid in 1995, no incumbent mayor has won re-election. This spring, incumbent Mayor Kevin Burke is trying to break the losing streak.

Burke appears stronger in his bid than his immediate predecessors, although nothing is easy in the rough-and-tumble world of Terre Haute politics. The determined and crafty operatives that work behind the scenes have an uncanny way of making success stories look like disasters.

Still, opponents have an uphill battle. Burke has been an active, engaged and forward-thinking mayor. His key re-election challenge stems from the fact that any public official who works an ambitious political agenda is destined to face hard questions, close scrutiny and sharp criticism. His willingness to address the city’s long-delayed sewer repairs is a good example.

Burke also has something going for him that previous mayors coveted but could never obtain — progress on the property at Seventh and Wabash where the Terre Haute House stood empty and decaying for more than 30 years. On this high-profile issue, Burke succeeded where his predecessors failed.

He did not do it by himself, of course. It took private investors taking a financial risk to get things moving. And the method by which Burke and his administration set the stage for the purchase and demolition of the old building, — and the current construction of a new, modern hotel — generated controversy and criticism, some justified.

As expected, Burke’s opponents in this election so far are discounting the positive impact of the Terre Haute House development, as well as the more recent project to renovate and transform the Tribune Building into an extended-stay hotel and to construct a new Children’s Museum next to it. During Tuesday’s candidate forum, criticism ranged from the low number of jobs these projects will bring, to the tax incentives used by the city to assist the developers.

While challenging the wisdom and implementation of a political agenda is fair game, critics and political opponents must be prepared to offer real alternatives. All five mayoral candidates expressed the importance of economic development in the city. Without viable alternatives to Burke’s chosen methods of achieving this goal, criticism is hollow rhetoric.

No one, we suspect, will ever advocate going back to the way things were, with empty buildings and no social or commercial activity being generated by these large downtown properties.

Downtown development is the most striking success story on Burke’s first-term resume. Political opponents will have to look for a slew of negatives to match a positive of that size and convince voters to make this mayor another one-termer.

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Old April 10th, 2007, 03:07 PM   #120
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Downtown Wi-Fi Initiative: Where's Waldo?


You've come a long way, baby: Downtown Terre Haute, early 1980s

April 09, 2007 10:46 pm

Project to install wireless network in downtown Terre Haute still in the works
By Emma Crossen
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Unlike cell phone reception, decent wireless internet (Wi-Fi) connection is not guaranteed in all urban areas … at least not in Terre Haute … at least not yet.

Market Bella Rossa is one of several downtown restaurants that do not offer Wi-Fi. Norbert Gottschling owns the store at 669 Wabash Ave. “I have a lot of [customers] who want it and are frustrated they can’t get it [in the store],” he said. Gottschling said he had not considered installing Wi-Fi in his business until recently, when a group of downtown organizations and volunteers began to promote the concept of a public-access wi-fi network.

The people behind that project first met in the summer of 2004. Now, nearly two-and-a-half years later, Wi-Fi is available only in some downtown businesses.

What happened?

Key Players Still Involved

Margaret Merkle has been involved since the beginning, almost a year before she joined city government as information technology director in June 2005. She said downtown wi-fi is coming and the new plans are more practical than the original design. Merkle is a member of Illiana Tech, an association of Wabash Valley information technology professionals, which continues to be a key player in the downtown wi-fi project. In April 2006, the organization secured a $10,000 grant from Urban Enterprise Association to develop an open-access wireless network for the area bounded by Ninth, Cherry, Third and Poplar streets. Illiana Tech was to officially administer the grant and its members would volunteer their time and expertise.

This changed when Illiana Tech realized that its bylaws do not allow it to own and manage equipment.

In its place, Downtown Terre Haute Inc. agreed in February to take on the task of administering the grant. Andrew Conner is director of the organization that promotes downtown Terre Haute. “We’ll be in charge of shepherding the project through,” Conner said. In addition to directing the $10,000 grant, DTH has also committed $150 per month for three years toward the costs of maintaining a downtown Wi-Fi network.

Despite these organizational changes, Merkle explained that “it’s some of the same volunteers working the project, they’re just doing it under the auspices of DTH [now].”

New Design

What has changed is the design for how the system will work. When Illiana Tech secured the grant, the project group envisioned using four or five large outdoor antennas to broadcast a strong signal throughout downtown.

Now, the group wants to help businesses install their own access points (or “hotspots”) within each facility. As before, each access point could be connected to the same Internet provider, but businesses could also opt for a separate provider. Also as before, the network could be arranged so that users at any location would see the same welcome page when they first log on to the Internet. This page would ask users to agree to terms of service and could include a community calendar and advertisements for Terre Haute businesses. Conner mentioned the wifi welcome page at Clabber Girl bakeshop at Ninth Street and Wabash Ave. as a model.

Why the change? An outdoor broadcast signal would not be practical for Terre Haute, Merkle explained. “[Our signal] would interrupt,” Merkle said, because the downtown area already has so many radio signals. “We don’t want to be an interruptive process. We want to help things.”

Also, the majority of downtown businesses are indoors and would not benefit as much from an outdoor signal. Merkle contrasted Terre Haute with Valparaiso, where a broadcast signal works better in the city because the downtown area includes more outdoor spaces where laptops are used.

If the indoor hotspot model is chosen, the $10,000 grant could be used to subsidize businesses’ costs for purchasing the hardware for their facilities, Merkle said.

DTH is currently drafting guidelines for commercial hardware and service providers to offer bids. Before asking for dollar amounts, DTH wants to know what is possible. “Industry and technology change so fast,” Conner said. “We don’t want to limit ourselves to specing requirements that aren’t up to date … we want it to be flexible and expandable for the future.”

Cincinnati’s Project Lily Pad (www.lilypadusa.com) is one model that Merkle is considering. Through public/private partnerships, Lily Pad encourages businesses and neighborhoods to become “Lily Pads,” or Wi-Fi hotspots, by installing the necessary hardware and joining Lily Pad’s network. Participating businesses and sponsors, including businesses that use another Internet service, can benefit by having their name mentioned in Lily Pad publicity. The downtown wireless project could offer similar publicity for Terre Haute businesses.

Not a City Project

Despite Merkle’s position as a city employee, the project group strategically chose to make the project a non-governmental initiative. “The Indiana state legislature [in 2006] was looking at restricting municipalities from being involved in communications projects,” Merkle explained. “I didn’t want the downtown wireless project to slow down because of city government involvement.” Because the city owns buildings downtown, it could be involved by becoming a Wi-Fi hotspot “like any other business,” Merkle said.

Government is also connected through the $10,000 UEA grant, a one-time allocation of tax-related funds intended for urban development. Rick Kesner administers UEA and works for Vigo County’s Department of Redevelopment. UEA was created by the city council in 1994 as part of a state program to establish Urban Enterprise Zones; businesses within the zone could opt to receive a tax credit on their inventory taxes with the stipulation that they give a portion of that credit to UEA for redevelopment projects within the zoned area, Kesner said.

Other UEA-funded projects include matching grants and loan programs to refurbish facades and apartments in downtown buildings. Kesner explained that the tax incentives associated with Urban Enterprise Zone ended in 2005, but that UEA is allowed to operate until all its accumulated funds are spent. The downtown wireless project “is one of the last projects for UEA,” Kesner said.

Making it a Reality

If the new design sounds similar to each business buying its own Internet service, Merkle agreed. “There wouldn’t really … be any difference,” she said. “What I wanted to see when Illiana Tech started this endeavor was just to promote that as a reality.”

“A few years from now, wireless capability will either be overtaken by something else entirely or it will be as ubiquitous as cell phones,” Merkle said.

With an initial grant from UEA and a three-year maintenance commitment from DTH, the project goal is to help businesses install Wi-Fi networks sooner than they otherwise might. Merkle said, “I see it as something that … takes off on its own.”

Getting the project started remains a work-in-progress.

Emma Crossen can be reached at (812) 231-4222 or [email protected].

What’s up now?

• The downtown wireless project group is considering a new model. Instead of broadcasting an outdoor signal throughout downtown, the new model would provide support and incentives to help businesses install their own wireless equipment.

Who is involved?

• Urban Enterprise Association: provided the grant to pay for startup costs

• Illiana Tech: Association of Information Technology professionals in the Wabash Valley volunteering expertise and support

• Downtown Terre Haute: Downtown development organization will administer the grant; DTH has also committed $150 per month for three years toward costs of maintaining the network.
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