Historical Background & Critical Points Timeline
Wabash : Brights Ideas. Bright Future.
Since 1980, the population in Wabash declined by 19.5%. This reduction is comparable to overall county population trends, which show population decrease as well (-12.3%). In comparison, the state’s population increased by 20.6%. Current trends illustrate continued depopulation. For example, 2015 population estimates Wabash's population as 10,381.
Historically, Wabash has remained a predominantly White community (99.7% in 1980 and 96.8% in 2014). Recent data (2014) estimates illustrate that of the city’s total population, there was no significant population of African Americans, resulting in a null percentage.
Wabash percentage of persons living in poverty over the past thirty years grew by 163.8%. Since 1980, the percentage of persons living below the poverty rate has increased from 6.9% to 18.2%. This trend aligns with those seen at the county and state levels. Comparatively, Wabash County’s poverty rate also rose by 98.7%, while the state’s poverty rate increased by 59.8%.
Wabash’s median household income significantly decreased over the past three decades (-14.5%). Most recent data estimates demonstrate Wabash’s median household income is $39,078. This estimate is approximately $6,579 less than the median household income of Wabash County ($45,657) and $9,659 less than the median household income of the state (Indiana $48,747).
Wabash: Socioeconomic Characteristics of Decline
Source: 1980 Census of Population, PC80-1-C1 "General Social and Economic Characteristics", table 245.U.S. Census Bureau, Census 1980 Summary Files 1 and 3. U.S. Census Bureau, 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau: State and County QuickFacts, 2015. Data derived from Population Estimates, American Community Survey, Census of Population and Housing, State and County Housing Unit Estimates, County Business Patterns, Nonemployer Statistics, Economic Census, Survey of Business Owners, Building Permits. STATS Indiana, using data from Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau. Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.
a. Poverty figures for 2014 were the most recent data estimations from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates Table S1701 provided for the specific geographic area.
b. The Median Household dollar amounts reported for 1980 are values that have been converted to constant 2014 dollars according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator, available at www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm.
Housing and Quality of Place
Wabash has many older and historic homes. Of the current 5,143 housing units, the majority (74%) were built before 1970. Of those housing units, approximately 38% were constructed before 1939. Due to the age of its housing stock, Wabash must address issues of maintenance and repair of aging systems, as well as the necessity to adapt structures to the needs of modern life. Since the homes are mature, they require maintenance costs that are not always feasible for homeowners with limited income streams. Additionally, Wabash stakeholders acknowledged the lack of downtown housing. City officials and stakeholders are currently planning efforts to develop multi-generational, multi-income downtown housing opportunities. Furthermore, community partnerships have been established to redevelop the near eastside neighborhood, East Wabash Historic District. This area is directly adjacent to the downtown and Paradise Spring Historical Park.
Beyond housing, stakeholders within the community also seek to enhance the city's parks and open spaces and improve connectivity. For example, Wabash plans to implement extensions of streetscape elements, including street lights, sidewalk redesigns to provide space for outdoor seating, new infrastructure to support mixed-use development and adaptive reuse, and placemaking elements that for an improved sense of place.
Community Economic Development
Over the past three decades, Wabash's population has been steadily declining, while household incomes have remained relatively stable. Similar to older rural cities and towns, the city suffered from a decline in its downtown business district which led to challenges of business retention and attraction. For instance, some the buildings downtown were vacant. Additionally, there was a need for improvements to building facades. City stakeholders sought to confront these challenges through downtown revitalization and a transition to tourism and the arts building on existing community assets of museums and performing arts.
"...For Wabash downtown revitalization development and transition to a tourism and arts economy in downtown Wabash built around assets, we already had in place and playing on our strengths. So playing on the strengths of the museums and the performing arts center and the theater that was already here were certainly part of the goals for downtown. Then cleaning up and putting life and use back into some of the downtown buildings that were abandoned."