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4/16/2012 10:21:00 AM
Stellar Communities effort to bring major retail anchor to Greencastle square
Artist rendering of proposed bookstore on Greencastle courthouse square.
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Artist rendering of proposed bookstore on Greencastle courthouse square.

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More people walking downtown. More customers spending money with courthouse square retailers. New shops and restaurants opening their doors for business. The next great college town.

That's what local officials hope to see as a result of a major downtown renovation, made possible by the State of Indiana's Stellar Communities initiative, that will bring a new bookstore, programmable community meeting space and Putnam County's first full-service Starbucks to the southeast corner of East Washington and Indiana streets. It will utilize the old Prevo department store space last occupied by Fine Print.

"At its core, the Stellar Communities initiative is about revitalizing our square, making it a center of connection and economic activity and anchoring a college town atmosphere," Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray said. "To have a major retail anchor of this size as a magnet to bring business, and more foot traffic, to the square is a major first step in that process."

In addition to providing course material and textbooks for DePauw students, the new location showcases a mezzanine-level Starbucks café that will seat approximately 75 individuals, a technology center and space dedicated to trade books, periodicals and DePauw University merchandise.

Additional retail space will be dedicated to Ivy Tech Community College merchandise. The top floor of the development will include a community meeting room and loft-style apartments.

Construction is set to begin in the coming weeks, with a grand opening scheduled for fall of 2012.

"If Stellar has been about finding partnerships, then this is the moment where the partnership becomes real," DePauw President Brian Casey said.

"We have a state, a city and a university investing significant resources to help our community reach its potential, and we're about to start seeing the fruits of our labor. This is a substantial investment by DePauw in the downtown, and I could not be more optimistic about the future of Greencastle."

The 11,000-square-foot structure -- to be developed by Kite Realty Group -- will be privately owned with retail operations managed by Follett Higher Education Group, the nation's largest operator of college campus and community stores.

Funding has been made possible by a development loan from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority facilitated by the Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center, along with a significant investment from DePauw University.

The total investment in downtown Greencastle from this initial project is expected to exceed $2.5 million.

The city's announcement drew praise from Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, who oversees Indiana's Stellar Communities program.

"This new facility will be an ideal spot for Greencastle residents and DePauw students alike," Skillman said. "That's what we created Stellar Communities to do -- bring people together and improve cities."

In Greencastle's initial Stellar Communities proposal, the bookstore initiative was described as an essential element in shifting pedestrian and consumer traffic to the square and creating a larger customer base for new and existing businesses, cafés and restaurants.

Tammy Amor, executive director of the Greater Greencastle Chamber of Commerce, echoed a similar sentiment on Friday.

"Our square is an incredible asset," Amor said. "It's the type of authentic, historic business district that developers are recreating in suburbs across the country. That's exactly what we're doing, except we have the real thing and Stellar has given us the shot in the arm we need to really make it shine."

Local business owners also expressed optimism about what the new bookstore could mean for the economic environment in the courthouse neighborhood.

"After 22 years nestled on the north side of the square, this exciting opportunity has given me more enthusiasm, optimism and motivation to do what I can to offer more to all patrons," Gail Smith, owner of Almost Home, said.

"The more there is to offer, the better for everyone," she added. "I'm proud to be a business owner in a small college town that has initiative and creativity to plan for the future."

Greencastle's Stellar Communities grant proposal -- which was approved by the State of Indiana in March 2011 -- is expected to provide as much as $19 million to support core projects designed to enhance the economic, cultural and residential vitality of Greencastle's downtown and the "South Court" neighborhood which connects it to DePauw University.

The scope of the initiative ranges from streetscape improvements to economic development initiatives and historic preservation efforts, primarily focused on the square and in the surrounding neighborhood.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR


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