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home : most recent : arts August 16, 2017

5/25/2017 7:37:00 PM
Vincennes survives first cut in Stellar Communities race

Jenny McNeece, Vincennes Sun-Commercial

Vincennes is a finalist in the race to be named an Indiana Stellar community.

State officials announced Thursday that Vincennes is now one of three Division 1 communities still being considered for the grant, one of Indiana's most coveted.

“So now we have some planning to do,” said Cheryl Hacker, Mayor Joe Yochum's administrative assistant.

City officials filed their letter of interest to the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs in April, outlining a whole host of wish-list projects.

The city looked primarily to a development plan done last summer by Bloomington's Strategic Development Group calling for things like the establishment of an Arts and Entertainment District and the transformation of the Gimbel Corner into a sprawling urban park with restrooms, a skating rink and an amphitheater.

It also calls for a sprucing up of First Street, the city's closest to the riverbank, with more residential spaces, a hotel and, perhaps, even a conference center down the line.

And the city parking lot on Vigo Street, the plan points out, could eventually be turned into a parking garage with retail spaces on the ground level.

Now the city will need to hire another third-party firm to help with prioritizing the items included in the initial letter into a document called a Strategic Investment Plan, Hacker said,

That will focus on “detailing projects, partnerships and proposed sources of funding,” according to a press release issued Thursday by Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch.

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

Last year's grant winners were Corydon and Rushville.

In previous years, such grants have funneled millions of dollars into Indiana communities — $18 million into Princeton and $19 million into Bedford — since the program was launched in 2011.

But the amounts aren't nearly that large anymore, according to Ellen Harper, a former OCRA employee and now executive director of INVin, a not-for-profit looking to bring new business to Main Street.

And the grant dollars are only a small percentage of the overall investment made in a community.

As an example, Harper said, should the city submit an application for, say, $10 million in improvement and quality-of-life projects, the grant would only provide about a third of the overall cost.

The rest would need to come from local investment.

“So moving forward we're going to have to look more closely at our designs and, generally, be a lot more specific in how we plan to get these things done,” Hacker said.

Obvious organizations the city could look to for financial cooperation would be Vincennes University and Good Samaritan Hospital.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Indiana contributed significantly to Princeton's Stellar program, which included a downtown housing development, the restoration of the historic downtown theater, and several beautification efforts as well.

Being named a finalist also opens up state funding for the development of the Strategic Investment Plan, although it's unknown at this point just how much the city would receive.

The Strategic Investment Plan will be due to the state on Aug. 25.

There will then be site visits to the finalists in September with awards to two communities — one in Division I and one in Division II — made in October.

The other Division 1 finalists — which targets communities with populations between 6,000 and 50,000 — are Greensburg in Decatur County and Madison in Jefferson County.

Finalists in Division II, communities with populations of less than 5,999, were Churubusco in Whitley County, Culver in Marshall County, and Union City in Randolph County.

Related Stories:
• Madison is one of three Division 1 Stellar Communities finalists
• Greensburg named 'Stellar' finalist

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

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