April 19, 2019
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Community Vision

The Department of Metropolitan Development works to increase demand for the city
Philip Hooper, executive director for the Department of Metropolitan Development for the City of Evansville-Vanderburgh County.

With more than a year as the executive director for the Department of Metropolitan Development for the City of Evansville-Vanderburgh County, Philip Hooper, 33, is planning big things for our city. Hooper, a Castle High School and Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.), graduate, came to Evansville from a position as a senior project manager in Indianapolis, and he brings a fresh approach to community development and the talent needed to make things happen.

City View: How would you describe Evansville?
Philip Hooper: We’re a strong little city in the regional network, even though we’re third tier compared to big ones like Louisville, St. Louis, or Indianapolis. The current trend is to urbanize, where more and more people are moving back to cities, and in order to expand and improve we need to stop trying to be a suburb, and be more like a city.

CV: What is your role in improving our city?
PH: The DMD looks for new partnerships and ways to promote assets, such as Downtown, including W. Franklin Street, North Main Street, Haynie’s Corner, and around the University of Evansville. These are the five urban destinations and anchors for positive growth for Evansville’s image. Look at Haynie’s Corner Arts District — every neighborhood in the country would be ecstatic to have a place like that, the same with W. Franklin Street. DMD’s goal is to get an asset-based model into the community.

CV: What’s the biggest challenge?
PH: The challenge is making ideas actual ideas. Not in a vacuum, but with partnerships and by listening to the community. We can’t just talk in our armchairs and do nothing, but we must find ways to increase the quality of life in the community. Adam Smith, considered the father of capitalism, said it the best: “Increase demand for the city.”

CV: In a nutshell, what are some of your general plans for the city?
PH: The DMD’s strategic planning revolves around community development to capture the most dollars we can. For example, lots of people are missing a Downtown grocery store, so we look at the budget and analyze the neighborhood’s grocery market. We are also focused on historic preservation, and we are developing a storefront façade grant program. Expanding emergency home repair will improve the look of neighborhoods, and we’ve doubled the efficiency and process for turning over vacant land.

CV: What are your plans for Downtown?
PH: We are excited for this year and glad we’ve been taking smart steps forward in developing a prominent hotel and conference center Downtown. The hotel will be nestled on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Walnut Street, on the site of the former Executive Inn. HCW of Branson, Mo., the company selected by the Evansville Redevelopment Commission to develop that property, brings a great level of experience working with hotel and convention center expansions. No other developer response had their breadth of financing, experience in similar-sized markets, and a holistic development proposal to anchor our investment in Downtown and bring the convention business back to life. It will be subsidized by public dollars, so we are making sure the public gets the best returns. We’re doing it right, so we don’t end up with a stale hotel that will need to be refurbished in 15-20 years.

Visit the Department of Metropolitan Development for more information.

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