02/17/12 During Monday night’s Plymouth Common Council meeting Brent Martin spoke about the Stellar Community Grant opportunity.

The Stellar Communities program is a multi-agency partnership designed to fund comprehensive community development projects in Indiana’s smaller communities. The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, and Indiana Department of Transportation, along with the State Revolving Fund, are participating in this innovative program.

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 resources and making a bigger impact in communities, even with a slimmer budget.

Martin explained that the program is looking for larger projects.  He said, “Last year Greencastle received $19 million and North Vernon $11 million.”  Martin noted, “The pilot program only selects two communities each year for the grant.”  Projects can include transportation, housing, and community improvements.  Communities needed submit a letter of interest by February 10th which includes types of projects, a schedule to complete projects, cost estimates, identify local match sources, indication of the level of community impact, and describe the significance each project will have on the overall comprehensive revitalization of the community.  They also limit the letter to four pages.  The letter was submitted and not the city is waiting to see if they make the short list.  If so, each community will receive $10,000 to prepare their final submission.

Martin briefly discussed projects the city included in the submittal.  First on the list is the South Gateway Improvement Project which included the demolition of the Cook Furniture Building, restoration to the railroad viaduct and extending a walking trail along the river, ultimately connecting to the Greenway Trail in River Park Square.  Phase II and III of the South Gateway, which are not currently funded are estimated to cost $900,000.

The second interest area is immediately to the west including the abandoned Pennsylvania and Nickel Plate Rail Depot buildings, a run-down section of brown field and empty lots, and home in need of repair.  The project could include restoration of the red-brick Depot, a mix of new housing such as an urban village, reclaiming the brown-field area, and rehabilitation of the run-down properties. Cost estimate is $6.2 million.

An integral part of the Crossroads Corridors vision is to improve the downtown streetscape and key historic buildings from the South Gateway to the 4-corners intersection.  A portion of the work would include re-purposing the historic Rees Theater into an arts center.  Estimated cost for purchasing and renovating the building would be $1.4 million.

The fourth part of the vision involves addressing specific wellness and community needs.  With no community activity center, a 44 year old public pool that is nearing its usefulness and the elimination of a swimming facility in the high school, a facility is needed.  The thought of partnering with the Boys and Girls Club since their facility is overcrowded and Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center who wants to expand its physical therapy offerings seems like a perfect partnership. The activity center would allow for year-round opportunities complementary to existing facilities and programs.  To bring such an element of the strategic plan to fruition would requirement an investment of $7 million.

The final project in the strategic plan looks at education and job creation with the essential component of bringing the high-speed broadband capability to our city.  The Metronet would allow area business such as Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, and education with Ancilla College and Plymouth School the possibility of nearly unlimited speed and flexibility for high-tech applications.  The cost to bring the Metronet to Plymouth is $1.5 million.

The total amount being requested is $16.8 million and the required match is $7.2 million.   With regard to local match, that amount will not come entirely from the City of Plymouth.  For instance – in the case of the Metronet, SJRMC would play a big part financially– in the case of the activity/aquatics center the school corporation would participate and in the case of downtown buildings, the property owner would have some responsibility.

Martin said, “At this point, we’re at the wait and see period if the City of Plymouth can make the short list on February 28th.”  He continued, “If we make the short list, there will be a lot of work to complete is a short time.”  He also informed the Council that the grant requires the work to be completed within three years.