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home : most recent : development - economic September 23, 2017

8/23/2017 10:14:00 AM
Vincennes approves Stellar Communities funding, $1 million over next four years

Jenny McNeece, Vincennes Sun-Commercial

The city council on Tuesday agreed to commit $1 million over the next four years to a variety of improvement projects should Vincennes be successful in being designated as an Indiana Stellar Community.

Council members, during their second night of budget hearings for the 2018 spending plan, approved a resolution that sets aside $250,000 annually over the next four years in Economic Development Income Tax dollars.

Vincennes is one of three Division 1 finalists, communities with populations between 6,000 and 50,000. The other two are Greensburg in Decatur County and Madison in Jefferson County.

The city must come up with just under $2 million in matching dollars should its application to the state’s Stellar Communities program be approved, a designation that would make way for about $5 million in quality-of-life improvement projects.

Twenty percent of that $2 million — or $200,000 — must come from “private” investment, and Mayor Joe Yochum said he has secured at least that thanks to commitments from the Utilities Service Board, the Vincennes Tourism Bureau, the Knox County Development Corp. and Vectren Corp.

And more private investment, he said, could be coming.

“I’ve talked to others,” he said, “and I’m waiting on them to get back to me.”

The rest of that $2 million must come in the way of public money, and so far, the Redevelopment Commission has committed $500,000 over the next four years. Yochum also plans to ask the city’s Urban Enterprise Association for money as well.

“We have to do our part,” Yochum said. “The state isn’t going to just walk in and give us this money.”

Projects named in the city’s application include an expansion of the Riverwalk as well as a housing complex to be built on First Street at the site of the old grain silos designed by local architect Andy Myszak, Myszak + Palmer Architecture and Development.

It also includes transformation of the Gimbel Corner into an urban park.

And city council members — after weeks of hearing about Yochum’s plans — seized their chance to verbally, and officially, throw their support behind the application, which is due to state officials on Friday.

Veteran at-large council member Duane Chattin said he believed, should the city get the Stellar money, that it will only lead to more, private investment.

“We’ve had a record amount of private investment that precedes Stellar,” Chattin said, mentioning specifically Pioneer Oil’s restoration of a building at Fourth and Main streets and the recent opening of the Vincennes Brewing Company, owned by Chris Coffey and William and Charlie Bedwell.

“And if we get Stellar,” Chattin said, “I think it will leverage so much more.”

Tim Salters, too, said he’s researched other communities that were declared Stellar cities. It was a “game-changer” for them, Salters said, adding that the possibilities that come with it “are endless.”

And the mayor agreed.

“With this investment,” he said of the Stellar program, “you’re going to see even more private investment.”

Yochum also pointed to two recent community conversations during which local residents could come, learn about the Stellar application and share their own visions for downtown Vincennes.

“If you listened to either of those, you know the public is behind this,” Yochum said. “It’s obvious. And a lot of the things that came out of those listening sessions have been changed in the application.

“It’s not about what you want or what I want, it’s what the public wants,” he said.

Yochum also said that should the city be successful in its Stellar application, the projects named in it can be altered and changed.

“These are all just tentative plans,” he said.

“But when we get this,” he added, being optimistic, “it’s going to be amazing. It’s going to draw a lot of people downtown.”

And even if the city’s isn’t successful this time around, all the hard work now, he said, will put the city in an even better position apply in 2018.

Ten state agencies — led by OCRA, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and the Indiana Department of Transportation — came together years ago to create the Stellar program, all of them pooling some of their financial resources to bolster Indiana cities, mostly with an emphasis on downtown areas.

Princeton, Huntingburg and Bedford have each received Stellar Communities grants, whose funds are focused on quality-of-life improvements.

The state’s newest Stellar community will be announced in October.

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• Stellar Competition: Greensburg, Madison, made similar applications

Copyright 2017 Vincennes Sun Commercial

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

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