The Allen County Placemaking Action Plan process includes a holistic analysis of key trends, opportunities, and challenges the county faces to achieve a prosperous economic and social future. Quantitative research is combined with comprehensive stakeholder outreach to ensure that Allen County’s strategic priorities reflect the county’s vision and goals.
Allen County’s placemaking action plan focuses on three key priorities:
- Economic Development
- Key Building Revitalization (“Thrive Annex Building”)
This webpage is a condensed version of the entire plan. Here, you’ll get a high-level overview of the project and its key takeaways from the Community Assessment, which ultimately informed the strategies and recommendations for the Final Plan. However, if you’re like us and want to dig into the details, we’ve got you covered!
The complete Community Assessment and Final Plan PDFs are available for you to read at the links below.
planning & technical assistance process
- Thrive Allen County assembled a project steering committee comprised of 16 individuals with backgrounds ranging from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
- The steering committee is convened quarterly for meetings to assist with oversight of the placemaking process and to ensure the development of the action plan is community-centered and in alignment with countywide priorities.
- The Atlas/McClure team convened the steering committee for its first official meeting in March 2021 to provide an overview of the RPIC initiative and the scope of work for the placemaking process before facilitating a visioning session to solicit input about the region’s assets, challenges, and opportunities related to housing and economic development.
- During the Atlas/McClure team’s first site visit in July 2021, the steering committee was convened for its second meeting to discuss emerging themes stemming from the public visioning sessions, public input meeting, and focus groups.
- During the Atlas/McClure team’s second site visit in October 2021, the steering committee was convened for its third meeting to discuss project updates. Additionally, the Atlas/McClure team hosted a public information meeting and facilitated topical/stakeholder-specific focus groups to generate more specific input related to the plan’s three key priorities.
- The Atlas/McClure team facilitated two open-invitation public visioning sessions via Zoom in April and May 2021.
- The Atlas/McClure team also facilitated an open-invitation public information meeting during their first site visit to solicit additional input from local residents and stakeholders who were unable to participate in the virtual visioning sessions.
- An online community survey was released in July 2021 and generated 104 responses.
- In July 2021, the Atlas/McClure team facilitated six focus groups with an emphasis on topics such as housing, economic development, workforce training and education, cultural amenities, entrepreneurship, and revitalization of the Thrive Annex Building.
- Participants in the economic development focus group also provided feedback via an online survey to identify the region’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- Overall, more than 60 individuals participated in the focus group meetings.
- The community assessment report features high-level quantitative trends for Allen County compared to three peer counties (Anderson, Bourbon, and Neosho), the state of Kansas, and the United States.
- The report also incorporates key themes from the stakeholder input conducted to date to determine assets and challenges related to housing, economic development, and quality of life amenities.
- In addition to the quantitative data and stakeholder input analysis, the Atlas/McClure team conducted topical research to contextualize the key trends and issues affecting Allen County, which ultimately informed the strategic opportunities and priority project concepts in the placemaking action plan.
- Based on the community assessment report, the placemaking action plan presents a new vision statement to guide Allen County’s future economic trajectory and strategic priorities.
- The placemaking action plan also makes strategic recommendations for priority projects and provides a resource roadmap to help advance them from ideation to reality.
key trends & challenges
The cost to build new housing continues to outpace the wages for a majority of local residents and commuting workforce
Housing stock is aging and deteriorating which has created a countywide shortage
Job opportunities are available, but the labor pool is unable to meet employer demand
Some skills training and post-secondary education is available in Allen County, but the region lacks a cohesive workforce development ecosystem
Balancing community priorities with regional economic development efforts is improving but still challenging
Recreational amenities and cultural institutions are a unique draw to Allen County
Allen County is a collaborative regional leader delivering essential services and innovative programs to its citizens and businesses so they can grow and thrive.
strategic opportunity areas
Several potential strategic opportunity areas emerged from quantitative research and stakeholder feedback. Underlying these opportunity areas and potential projects/initiatives should be a commitment to a progressive, innovative, and sustainable future Allen County residents desire.
- Establish greater public awareness of local resources
- Establish annual county tax sale versus every three to five years
- Create new programs to support access to homeownership
- Establish land bank to purchase and hold property
- Raze deteriorated units to create opportunity for new construction appropriate to the surrounding neighborhood
- Be open to new technologies or construction methodologies, such as 3D-printing
- Build a coalition of employers, higher education, training providers, K-12, wraparound service providers, and economic development professionals
- Based on employer needs and skill gaps, identify training and programs to address these needs
- Leverage a variety of training and education methods, including dual enrollment programs, apprenticeships, traditional classroom courses, internships, mentorship programs, and more
- Create a robust outreach and recruitment effort to make people aware of local employers, job availability, training and education opportunities connected to these jobs, potential earnings and career advancement, etc.
- Ensure individuals are connected to the training and resources they need to be successful (ex. housing, tuition assistance, transportation, mental health counseling, etc.)
- Create and execute a marketing strategy revolving around success stories about individuals who were trained and employed in Allen County
- Use the coalition to continually assess employer needs and the labor market and evaluate performance measurements
- Apply for federal and state grants to support and expand the workforce development ecosystem
- Determine priorities for economic development annually
- Identify strategic partners and determine how they will advance county-wide economic development efforts
- Build and budget for a standard incentive program to support business recruitment and expansion
- Develop a sustainable budget for county-wide economic development
- Identify sources of funding to support the annual budget
- Build an online presence, promote economic development efforts, and celebrate small and big “wins”
- Apply for federal and state grants to support economic development efforts
- Restore the Thrive Annex Building to its former glory
- Add the building to the National Register of Historic Places
- Leverage historic tax credits (if applicable) for the building renovation
- On the first floor, offer a multi-use event space to accommodate various programming such as art classes, wine tastings, wedding receptions, birthday parties, etc.
- On the second floor, offer a unique short-term rental option to tourists or locals wanting to experience a relaxing getaway
- Promote the county’s cultural and recreational amenities to those who utilize the Thrive Annex Building space
- Sustain the building financially through revenue generated from the short-term rentals and event space