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Culver working to become a 'Stellar Community'

CULVER, Ind. - A small Michiana town is hoping to score big this year by earning the coveted ‘Stellar Community’ designation. Culver’s Town Manager walks ABC 57 through their plan.

Culver is a finalist for the second year in a row, so they’re revamping their efforts as the due date approaches.

“I don’t think there’s another town in Indiana like Culver,” said Culver Town Manager, Jonathan Leist.

This ‘small town with surprising sophistication’ is hoping to add ‘stellar’ to that motto come November.

“It’s basically a program designed to reward communities that are dedicated towards best practices as far as growing your community, growing your population, growing your assessed value, and improving income. It’s not a grant program, but there are dollars attached to being a Stellar designee,” said Leist.

That’s because for the next four years, their town in essence would get a fast pass for grants, which usually add up to $6 to $12 million.

Last year, Culver was a finalist but didn’t win.

“That’s I think the biggest advantage we have over last year that now we’ve been working on it for two years instead of one,” said the town manager.

They’re focusing their plan on a big three:

  • Renovating the historic beach lodge,
  • Transforming 13 acres the town annexed into housing units, and
  • Constructing a bike trail that connects to Culver Park and eventually extends around the entire lake.

Built in 1937, the Beach Lodge, “[is] heavily used in the summer but not used a lot outside of that. We’d really like to just bring it up to date, make it a space that people can use year-round for --you know just all kind of different local events,” said Leist.

The Sand Hill Farm Housing Project comes after a 2014 community survey shined a light on Culver’s housing problem.

“There’s been a pretty steady increase in the cost of housing in Culver. ---It’s driven up the value of homes. It’s driven up our assessed value…but it’s made it very difficult for people who work here to live here,”’ said the town manager.

The ten-foot bike and pedestrian path is already in the works thanks to Marshall County Commissioners.

“For them to come in and say that they’ll help us do a mile was huge, so that really started the ball rolling,” said Leist.

It started the ball rolling down a path this small town of 1500 hopes leads to becoming the stellar community they already believe themselves to be.

“It just brings a different mix of people than you see elsewhere anywhere else in the state in a community this size, and that’s what I love about Culver. It’s an interesting place,” said Leist.

The last step before the state chooses its recipient is a site visit in October.

Once they visit all six towns, they’ll announce the winners at ‘Stellarbrations’ in November.

For more information on 'Stellar Communities,' click here.

To learn more about Culver's projects, click here.

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