Columbus Visit Inspires Fresh Perspectives on Community Development


Where do you go when searching for ideas and strategies to help your community flourish?

The Indiana Chamber 2022 Community of the Year isn’t a bad place to start.

That’s exactly what officials with the Hancock Economic Development Council and City of Greenfield recently did on a visit to Columbus, Indiana, alongside numerous other leaders from across the state. The excursion featured a Redevelopment Association of Indiana meeting, enlightening presentations by Columbus officials and state legislative experts, and an insightful site tour.

The presenters delved into a wide array of projects, developments, and initiatives within Columbus. They not only discussed their accomplishments but also touched upon their adaptability in the face of changing circumstances.

Columbus Mayor James Lienhoop addresses attendees of a Redevelopment Association of Indiana meeting in his city on September 22nd, 2023.

Several crucial lessons emerged from these discussions, including the importance of stakeholder engagement, the value of diverse perspectives, the art of active listening, the drive to take action, and the need for a cohesive approach.

Columbus’s leaders envision the downtown area as the city’s communal “living room,” accessible to all. Their commitment is to make it an inviting, walkable, dynamic, sustainable, and attractive space.

Leaders from across Indiana visit Columbus’ first sustainable street–4th Street between Washington and Jackson, on September 22nd, 2023. The design calms vehicle traffic and encourages pedestrian activity with the narrow roadway, large sidewalks, street trees, outdoor dining opportunities, and decorative gates to allow the street to be closed for festivals and events.

Additionally, Columbus boasts an Office of Downtown Development, dedicated to facilitating a seamless experience for both new and established businesses looking to operate within the city. The office shared effective strategies for attracting more visitors to downtown, such as text marketing, engagement with apartment communities, and the dissemination of information on weekend activities to local hotels.

Furthermore, the presenters emphasized the importance of effective project management techniques, including tax increment financing, collaboration with property owners, coordination with state agencies, and synergy with neighboring developments.

Columbus Redevelopment Department Executive Director Heather Pope leads the group through the 6th Street Arts Alley in the city’s downtown.

The conversation also shed light on the positive impact of community-oriented businesses like Cummins and how the Columbus Redevelopment Commission has played a pivotal role in the city’s achievements.

Attorneys from Ice Miller, based in Indianapolis, provided insights into new state legislation pertaining to tax increment financing for single-family housing. They also discussed a new Indiana Finance Authority housing infrastructure revolving loan fund program.

Mitchell Kirk, HEDC Communications Director, summarized the experience: “You could see lightbulbs going off above people’s heads all day. I’m excited to see how officials will apply what they’ve learned. Given Hancock County’s rapid growth, we appreciate the valuable knowledge and perspectives shared by the Redevelopment Association of Indiana and the City of Columbus through this program.”