City sets sights on new projects to continue momentum
Despite numerous awards as a best place to live, raise a family and retire to, Mayor John Ditslear isn’t letting the city sit idle and rest on its recent accomplishments.
“2013’s been great and we’re looking forward to 2014,” Ditslear said.
Among its many developments and construction for the coming year, Ditslear highlighted the following projects:
When Ivy Tech opens in August, Noblesville will be home to the 32nd Ivy Tech campus and will provide Hamilton County residents easier access to college credits, technical certificates and associate degrees.
“One of my goals from when I became mayor in 2004 was to have an institute of higher learning come to the city,” Ditslear said. “Ivy Tech is a real, real plus for all of us – current students, upgrading skills, recertification and life-long learners.”
Ivy Tech began offering classes in Hamilton County in 1980 and during the spring 2013 semester, more than 3,000 students took advantage of this opportunity. School officials said Ivy Tech is busy at work determining what the site will look like and how to best serve the Hamilton County community.
“We look forward to the renovation and opening of Noblesville Ivy Tech in the fall. The economic development department, in partnership with the Vision Noblesville Workforce Development Council and the Hamilton County Alliance, will continue to connect businesses from Noblesville and all other Hamilton County Communities with the Ivy Tech Corporate College Staff to align desired curriculum and certification needs,” Noblesville Economic Director Judi Johnson said.
The next Noblesville park will be on 6.4 acres of flood-prone land between Ind. 32 and Logan Street along White River. Plans call for an open-air amphitheater (which would be a permanent home for the Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission’s Shakespeare in the Park series and could relocate the city’s free summer concerts and farmers market) and a pedestrian bridge crossing the river into the downtown square. Officials also are looking at a splash pad, trails and shelters.
“We want that to be the ‘wow’ factor when you’re coming to Noblesville from the west,” Ditslear said.
While the project will begin construction in 2014, Ditslear said the city cannot financially complete the project next year.
“The desire is to extend downtown west for a long time to kick start other development,” Ditslear said.
Officials hope the project unites the city’s core business district.
“The future West Side Park will be a catalyst for community transformation. New park development adds to the portfolio of Noblesville’s quality of life attributes,” Johnson said. “We hope the West Side Park development creates a more vibrant economy through additional commercial and residential attraction. It is evident that citizens seek out community. The west side of the river is also a part of downtown Noblesville and will ultimately compliment and sustain our already thriving downtown and historic square.”
On the even larger scale of Noblesville Parks’ projects is Eastside Park, which will be the largest in Noblesville at 200 acres. In comparison, Forest Park is 150 acres. Officials said Eastside Park, at 166th Street and Boden Road, is the city’s commitment to provide accessible parks and recreation facilities for residents living east of Ind. 32, particularly those in Wayne Township.
“It’s an ideal setting,” Ditslear said.
The massive park’s plans include a YMCA, aquatic center, events lawn and stage, softball complex, three athletic fields, shelters, nature center, archery range, disc golf course, playgrounds, sledding hill and a dog park. The area also includes numerous trails and nature settings including grasslands, woodlands and wetlands/pond.
To assist in funding the undeveloped project, Noblesville Common Council members approved changes to the city’s land-use law in September. The change allows residential developers within a half-mile of Eastside Park to set aside less property as open space in exchange for a fee. The idea behind the change is that residents are more likely to use a municipal park near their home than a neighborhood playground. The less open space means more homes can be built and the fees cause less of a financial burden on the city.
“It’s an opportunity for us to use our parks as green space,” Ditslear said.
Comprehensive Master Plan
Noblesville will have a new Comprehensive Master Plan in 2014. Ditslear said the last one was revised 10 years ago.
“With the new master plan we will do our best and follow what the public wants,” he said.
Noblesville Planning Director Christy Langley said the Comprehensive Master Plan will be introduced to the Noblesville Plan Commission on Jan. 21 and the Noblesville Common Council on Jan. 28.
Once approved, Langley said the guidance document will take a “tour of sorts.”
“We’ll go to the school board, chamber of commerce, Noblesville Main Street and Noblesville Preservation Alliance to say ‘here’s what the plan says and how you are specifically involved,’” she said.
The plan will outline a vision and strategic framework for future development, redevelopment and community building projects. Langley said a community’s comprehensive plan sets public policy in terms of transportation, utilities, land use, recreation and housing over short and long-term periods. The previous plan was prepared in 1995 and updated by the city in 2003.
Langley said a review of the plan will take place annually.
“It’s a living plan and we’re talking about it constantly,” she said. “Each year will see minor revisions. We’ll spend three to four weeks working on it each year.”
Every three years the city conducts a Citizen Survey to provide insight as to what residents believe are the strengths and weaknesses of the community and of local government.
“This survey tells us a lot about our citizen’s preferences and allows us to help determine what we’re doing right and what needs to be changed,” Ditslear said, adding the results assist city leaders with long-term planning.
From the last survey in 2010, Ditslear said there was a perception or lack of opportunities to volunteer. To address that, Vision Noblesville was created and one of its responsibilities was creating a volunteer database for those interested and groups needing assistance. Results of the recent survey will be announced in January.
City Façade Grant program
The city has approved more than $59,000 in grants for exterior building improvements, while the grant recipients have contributed almost $159,000 for these projects. Ditslear said since this program began in 2007 there have been a total of 38 grants distributed.
“Downtown is always an important part of our development. We want to always improve that,” he said.