- Sand Hill Farm Workforce Housing Project
- Beach Lodge Renovation
- Lake Maxinkuckee Bike and Pedestrian Trail
- State Road 10 Sidewalks
- Cavalier Park
- Lake Maxinkuckee Recreation
- West Jefferson Street Gateway
The Town of Culver’s unique assets, Lake Maxinkuckee and Culver Academies, paired with its challenges, expensive and limited housing options, were incorporated in their 2017 Stellar application. Every summer, thousands of visitors come to Culver to take advantage of the lake as well as their summer programming. Several of the homes in the area are owned by these summer guests. Come winter, many of these houses are left unoccupied and the number of residents dips significantly. To address this issue, Culver’s 2017 Stellar application pursued the idea of a “Stellar town, year-round” that will create a quality of life to attract people to live in Culver year-round. Through this designation, Culver’s tight-knit community of just over 1,400 has rallied to levels of community engagement that the town has never before seen.
In 2011, when Ginny Munroe heard about Stellar, she immediately identified it as something for Culver to strive towards. As the president of Culver’s town council, Munroe had always been impressed with the level of the residents’ involvement with local efforts. The Stellar program motivated her to consider taking this essential next step.
“To me, the potential was in the partnerships and the potential for collaboration,” Munroe said. “I thought about doing Stellar from a leadership perspective. I asked the question: how can I get Culver collaborating more?” We have these various groups of people – lake, Academies and town. I thought that if we all could work outside of our silos for a common mission, we could do some great work.”
From there, the planning began. Munroe formed a team of invested, local leaders from various organizations within the community as she looked to Culver’s future. Together, they created a five-year action plan for their newly created comprehensive plan.
“It was a powerful experience because everyone had a different vision for Culver,” Munroe said. “We were working together to come up with that vision. So, when we were considering Stellar, which is about collaboration and community engagement, it seemed like a natural fit for us to go for it.”
With Culver’s first application, in 2016, their SIP had several projects that were widely dispersed across the community and with varied purposes. Ultimately, this application was not awarded the designation.
“After becoming a finalist, the feedback was that although we had done work on our plan, we needed a common focus and we had to deepen our partnerships. We realized that we wanted our Stellar story to be about attracting year-round residents,” Jonathan Leist, Culver’s town manager, said.
This shift in Culver’s Stellar vision and the addition of strong partnerships ultimately won Culver the designation in 2017.
To address Culver’s lack of housing, the updated Stellar
plan included complimentary and primary projects in the SIP. However, to support these initiatives, Leist and Munroe reached out to the largest employers in the area for information that supported this need.
For years, Culver Academies has collected information regarding where their faculty and staff lived and why, and why, when job offers were turned down, they pursued work outside of Culver. According to their statistics, the percentage of their faculty and staff that live in Culver had decreased from roughly 70 to 40 percent in the last 20 years.
Following the designation, Culver began attracting attention from outside of the area as well.
“People say that things will change regarding investment into your town,” Munroe said. “Within just two months of designation, we had a call from Indianapolis developers who wanted to do a project here and we had a developer who was interested in building 70 units of new housing.”
In 2018, 24 housing units will open as a complimentary project to the Stellar plan. According to Leist, more housing options will be opening up in the next couple of years. “Changing our plan elevated our projects to the next level and truly became a Stellar plan,” Munroe said. “It gives Culver such a competitive edge and, as a council member, that’s what you’re working for.”
Leist said he believes that the input that he gathered from other Stellar designees proved to be critical in winning the designation. However, the whole process requires a complete buy-in from the community.
For Munroe, Stellar has changed the way the town’s government is structured and will carry an impact for future administrations.
“Trying to get this designation made us think differently about what we do with municipal work. Stellar requires that the work and your community be intertwined. To solve your challenges, you need to look to your community for solutions,” Munroe said.
“When your plans our community-driven and your team involves more than municipal leaders, then you know you are doing the work your community wants you to do. Stellar changed our way of operating and it’s going to change Culver’s history from a governmental standpoint.“