INDIANAPOLIS — Auburn ranks among seven finalists in Indiana’s highly competitive “Stellar Communities” program, Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman said Monday.
“Each of the finalists demonstrated a comprehensive plan with the potential to transform their community,” Skillman said. “Only two will be our next Stellar Communities, but all seven will benefit from the long-term strategic planning.”
Each finalist community will receive $10,000 to prepare an in-depth Strategic Investment Plan proposal and will participate in a site visit with a state selection team. In May, two of the finalist communities will be announced as this year’s Stellar Communities.
Other finalists are: Crawfordsville, Delphi, Petersburg, Princeton, Richmond and Whitestown.
Auburn reached finalist status with its multi-part plan for improvements, Mayor Norman Yoder said.
“It’s quite an honor,” Yoder said, noting that Auburn is the only finalist from northeast Indiana. State officials said 40 communities applied for the program.
Greencastle and North Vernon won designation as Stellar Communities in 2011. A news story in Greencastle’s newspaper said the communities would split $31 million in state grants, but a later story mentioned $19 million in potential grants for Greencastle. A state official said the projects have a three-year timeline.
Applications required a plan to improve the community with a regional impact, Yoder said. Auburn’s plan focuses on the city’s national landmark automobile museums.
“All this would tie together to make our community more attractive for those who come to visit” the museums and a better place for residents to live, Yoder said.
“The southern gateway that leads to the museum area will be revitalized, the museum district will be developed, and the improvements to downtown where community events are held will tie it all together,” says the city’s application for the Stellar Communities project.
Auburn’s plan focuses on seven areas of the city:
• Sixth and Main streets, pursuing a recently unveiled plan to create an entertainment district;
• downtown, with plans for building improvements, rental housing rehabilitation and sewer separation;
• finding a use for the former site of McIntosh School on South Main Street;
• the southwest neighborhood between Fifteenth Street and Ensley Avenue, with rehabilitation for owner-occupied homes and infrastrucure improvements;
• a plan for the museums area on South Wayne Street calls for developing an area for outdoor education and events; improvements to the “confusing intersection” of Jackson and Wayne streets and Ensley Avenue; cleanup of a former service station site; plus a project involving the former city electric utility plant resulting in reconstruction, deconstruction or demolition;
• the “southern gateway” along South Wayne Street, including facade and corridor improvements, a trail extension, rehabilitation for owner-occupied homes and infrastrucure improvements; and
• “southern connections” projects at the south I-69 interchange, DeKalb County Airport, Auburn Auction Park and museums.
“We will not be able to do all the things we mentioned in this plan,” Yoder said. “Over the next six weeks, we’ll refine those down.”
Yoder said he will be asking community organizations to help with the site visit by the selection team.
The selected communities will complete multiple projects funded by the three agencies, which may address housing, water infrastructure needs, street and roadwork, streetscape and lighting needs, community centers, revitalization projects and other quality-of-life issues.
A state website says, “The Stellar Communities program embodies collaborative government partnerships and successfully leverages state and federal funding from multiple agencies to undertake large-scale projects. Through this program, Indiana is doing more with current