Historical Background & Critical Points Timeline
North Vernon: Stellar Ready!
Overall, North Vernon has encountered stable growth in its population over the past 30 years. Despite its continued growth, the city has experienced periods of population decline, between 1980 and 2000. Recent population data indicate an increase in the city’s population since 1980 14.7%. This is a comparable to overall county and state population trends, which show population increases. For instance, Jennings County experienced a significant amount of population growth 22.1%, and the state’s population increased by 20.6%.
Historically, North Vernon has remained a predominantly White community (97.9% in 1980 and 95.1% in 2014). The 2014 Census data showed of North Vernon’s total population, 1.2% was categorized as African-American, while the remaining 3.7% were categorized as Other Races. This trend is expected to remain fairly constant.
Of North Vernon’s 2,656 households, an estimated 14 percent of families are below the poverty line. Since 1980 North Vernon experienced a decline in the percentage of persons living in poverty. The percentage of persons living below the poverty rate increased from 12.5%* in 1980 to 27.4% by 2014 estimates. This is an increase of approximately 119.2%. In comparison to recent (2014) Jennings County and state estimates, North Vernon has a higher percentage of its persons living below the poverty line (16.5% and 15.5% respectively)*.
*Data Correction: The erratum in percentage of individuals below poverty: Corrected and republished May 23, 2014.
North Vernon’s median household income decreased to some extent throughout the past thirty years by 3.0%. The median household income in 2014 was $35,417, lower than that of the the state ($48,737), and county ($44,758).
North Vernon: Socioeconomic Characteristics of Decline
Source: 1970 Census of Population, PC(1)-C1 "General Social and Economic Characteristics", table 182. 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, 2008-2012 American Community Survey Table S1702. 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 US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2010-2014 Table S1701 estimations 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.
Neighborhood Stability and Quality of Life
Over the past three decades, North Vernon faced concerns related to aging housing and building stock. Of the current 2,962 housing units, over 50% were built prior to 1970. The average housing unit is over 60 years in age. North Vernon also has many older and historic built prior to 1939. The aging housing stock points toward the fact that a portion of households and neighborhoods in North Vernon must deal with the costs of maintenance and repair of aging infrastructure. These areas must also tackle with the need to adapt these structures to fit the needs of modern life. Moreover, North Vernon’s officials were also concerned with quality of living for it residents and creating a sense of place and destination for its current and future residents.
“…Giving people, especially younger people a destination to come to. To be able to say ‘Come to our downtown or theater.’ We needed to spruce things up ….. There were a lot of older buildings and historic parks built over 100 years ago and homes that were built in the 1930s and 1940s that you could afford to have but not afford to make improvements on. So we needed grants and it worked out great.”
Community Economic Development
Beyond the past three decades North Vernon experienced rural decline. North Vernon tackled challenges of business attraction and retention. Many of its major industries left the city and area between the 1960s and 1980s. Due to aging buildings and infrastructure, companies were not locating in the downtown and overall quality of life in was deteriorating. Outside these challenges, City officials wanted to help support and build on economic opportunities of its large military training facility.
“…The downtown had a tremendous amount of history in terms of storefronts. Its whole personality kind of got shook up and changed with the whole location of the Muscatatuck Urban Warfare Training Center, which became and is of now one of the world premier warfare training centers. And it’s just had a huge impact on the city. One of our major challenges was restoring and maintaining the historic nature of the community, merging all of the impacts of the urban warfare training center into the community.”
Over the years, the city’s elected officials and community stakeholders have taken steps towards downtown planning and revitalization. First, the city completed upgrades in its infrastructure, including water and sewer lines for MUTC as well as large roadway expansion projects. For instance, city leaders have acquired a vacant bank to turn back into productive use, constructed pocket parks on the courthouse square, and replaced old infrastructure such as sidewalks. Second, North Vernon finalized a downtown revitalization project in 2006 as well as Comprehensive Plan (2009), which included downtown revitalization, building downtown into a regional destination hub, MUTC support, and housing revitalization. These improvements have sparked other private investments in the downtown resulting in decreases in the city downtown business vacancy rates from 50% to 10%. However, due the limited funding and resources, their efforts resulted in small-scale and step-by-step improvements. Despite their efforts, there remained a significant amount of investment needed the downtown commercial corridor.
“Where there were once people in the downtown, on a regular basis in the middle of the day there is almost nobody on the streets. The streets are almost completely vacant. I mean almost nobody walking around. That is very frightening to see.”
“Prior to the Stellar program we were taking baby steps to try to implement the master plans that had been developed, but it was going to be a very long road and a very slow process….And very incremental improvements, but not the really taking leaps to move the community or the downtown area forward.”
North Vernon’s challenges of business attraction and retention have been compounded by the indirect transportation issue, the new Highway 50 Bypass. The U.S. 50 project involves construction of a highway bypass around North Vernon. Construction on the western half of the project, which consists of a new two-lane road from U.S. 50 northeast to S.R. 3 north of North Vernon, began in March 2012. When completed, the project will reduce congestion in and around North Vernon, improve safety, improve accessibility, and meet local and state planning objectives. With the construction of the Highway 50 Bypass city officials were concerned about the capturing potential economic activity the highway would create.