By Nicole Minier
CHURUBUSCO —Many who live in Churubusco consider the town to be “stellar.” Churubusco Clerk-Treasurer Madalyn Sade-Bartl hopes the state Office of Community and Rural Affairs feels the same way.
“When one thinks about a small town, numerous thoughts come to mind — friendliness, safe, secure and quaint. Churubusco is the definition of small town, but unlike many small towns, Churubusco is close enough to enjoy the amenities of large metropolitan areas,” Sade-Bartl wrote in her Stellar Communities Grant application, which was submitted two weeks ago.
Because Churubusco is close to Fort Wayne, Warsaw, Auburn, Kendallville, Columbia City and Huntington, Sade-Bartl believes the town is a great “bedroom community” for employees who work in bigger cities.
“Churubusco has the potential of becoming the premier bedroom community of northeast Indiana,” Sade-Bartl said. “With 16,000 cars traveling through Churubusco every day, a Stellar designation would impact so many more than just the 2,000 residing within town limits.”
Receiving the Stellar Community designation would give the town grant money to complete several quality of life improvement projects, such as an expansion to Churubusco Public Library; phase two of the Main Street Association’s revitalization project; completion of downtown murals; repaving streets; an owner-occupied rehabilitation program and trail signs.
Churubusco is on an upward swing, with much work being done in the past year. Fundraising has started for Oscar’s Playland, new ADA compliant playground equipment at the town park. Kyler Ridge will bring 32 senior apartments to the corner of Pleasant and Mulberry streets. Phase three of Thresher’s Ridge housing addition began construction in 2016. Wayfinding signs will be placed this summer.
In addition, 32 new trees were planed in 2016 and 35 more will be planted in 2017 and the town is improving sidewalks to both make them ADA compliant and provide safe routes to school for local children.
Churubusco Public Library
Churubusco’s primary focus is on expanding and renovating the library.
“A thriving library is important for a community’s success, as libraries provide citizens access to technology, deliver after-school, youth-centered programs and tutoring, allow seniors a place to socialize, offer cultural and arts events, and so much more,” the grant application reads.
The cost to update the library is $1.2 million, and would include a dedicated children’s area, a section for teens, more computer terminals and potential work spaces for adult education classes.
Construction plans are in place, but financing is still up in the air.
Main Street revitalization
The town completed phase one of its Main Street revitalization project last year, and looks to continue its work south of State Road 205 on Main Street (U.S. 33).
The first phase improved areas north of State Road 205, and phase two will run from State Road 205 to Mill Street.
The project includes improvement to walkways and creating curb appeal.
Several groups are working together to complete murals on downtown buildings.
This was made possible through a partnership between the town, Main Street Association, Churubusco History Center and Churubusco High School.
Two murals have been completed near the intersection of Main and Whitley streets. The murals depict events in Churubusco’s past.
Plans have been developed for a larger mural on the Churubusco News building, 123 N. Main St., and will cost $4,000. Because of time constraints, the school’s art department is unable to assist with the murals, so the town is looking to work with the Indiana Arts Commission to hire a Hoosier painter to complete the project.
An assessment found that many Churubusco streets are in need of repair, with the worst being Mulberry Street, one of the town’s busiest streets.
Located on Mulberry and its feeder streets are the town park, Smith-Green Community Schools, Churubusco Public Library, Churubusco Childcare Center, Churubusco Masonic Lodge, Churubusco Town Hall and the future Kyler Ridge apartments, which is expected to be complete in 2018.
“With the amount of traffic traveling on Mulberry Street daily and considering the age of the road, the Churubusco Street Department, with the help of DLZ Engineering, has concluded that Mulberry and its feeder roads of Home, West Tulley, Liberty, Magers and Jones streets need complete reconstruction to provide citizens with the highest level of safety,” the grant application reads.
A rough estimate of the project is $500,000.
Churubusco looks to expand on its facade grant program, which has spurred $120,000 in commercial building improvements, by offering a program to home owners.
Many of Churubusco’s homes are more than 50 years old, with some being almost 150 years old. To help residents, the town would offer an extension of its facade grant program, targeted toward low-to-moderate income homeowners, allowing them to make improvements to through grants of up to $25,000 per home to address health and safety issues.
The town could use $50,000 in economic development funds to launch the program, but needs further financing to help as many residents as possible.
The Churubusco Park has more than 65 acres and numerous amenities, which includes an expansive trail system.
While the trail is well-maintained, numerous citizens indicated on an online survey, that they don’t use the trails because they are afraid of getting lost due to the lack of signage.
Citizens said they would be more likely to use the trail if it had signage and distance indicators.
The cost is estimated at under $1,000