MU students plan study in downtown Wabash

By Joseph Slacian

A Manchester University class is collaborating with the City of Wabash and Grow Wabash County (GWC) to study a section of East Market Street in downtown Wabash.

From the study, the students in Dr. Leonard Williams’ class will create a policy analysis and report their findings to Mayor Scott Long and GWC President Keith Gillenwater.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the Wabash community to have a bright group of minds come in and present us with some ideas on potentially redeveloping a section of our Market Street corridor,” Long said in a news release. “We are looking forward to working with Professor Williams and his students.”

During the spring semester, the students will look at East Market Street between South Huntington and South Allen streets in downtown Wabash.

The students will examine how the corridor is being used, and aks questions such as:

How might redevelopment be financed?

What opportunities are there for public-private partnerships?

What would be the effects of redevelopment on residents, businesses and the city?

What additional factors should be taken into consideration?

The students will interview residents, entrepreneurs, public officials and non-profit leaders about the needs, possibilities and challenges of redeveloping Market Street. They also will collect and review relevant housing and economic data.

Gillenwater told The Paper of Wabash County that Williams contacted him about partnering with his class to look at a project to help with redevelopment and/or housing within the city.

“We discussed a number of different projects and the mayor and I drove him around for a tour of potential project areas, and he liked (East Market Street) as it was a defined and smallish area.”

The area, Gillenwater added, “is an area of the community where we know we primarily have non-owner-occupied housing.”

“Some of the homes are in disrepair or in need of significant work to make them inhabitable,” he continued. “It’s a pretty visible stretch of homes, and we feel that the area has development potential to look at new housing options, potential retail options and the like. I feel like the location downtown, right outside the entrance to Paradise Spring, our trail system, and just down from the museum, Rock City Lofts, Rock City Café and other amenities makes the location a nice opportunity to reimagine it.”

The class is expected to complete its report before the end of the semester in May.

“I’m delighted to be able to work with Keith and the mayor to arrange this collaborative, community-based project,” Williams said in the release. “It is this kind of practical experience that best prepares students for careers and helps them develop skills that can benefit others.”

This is believed to be the first time the city and a university class has partnered for a study.

“But we have been working for several years to partner with the university,” Gillenwater noted, “such as on our entrepreneurship program with Innovate@Inguard, our co-starters program, and on our current Leadership Wabash County class that is running now.”

He said he would like to see the partnership continue in the future.

“We have had some great previous partnerships … and I think we should use this huge asset we have with a world class university right in our backyard to help build and grow our community which benefits a lot of us, from the city to the university to all our citizens, businesses and industry.”

Posted on 2018 Mar 13