Group seeks to revive downtown Lagro
By Emma Rausch | The Paper of Wabash County
A new community-focused foundation aims to revitalize Lagro, starting with three historic buildings.
The Lagro Canal Foundation hosted its first public meeting Wednesday, June 28, to inform the residents of its goals and the plans for its first project. The organization was established in April, Beth Gillespie, LCF president, told The Paper of Wabash County.
“How the foundation came about, I guess I lost my mind one day,” Gillespie said jokingly during the meeting. “I was sad to see that the (town’s historic) buildings were sitting empty and I heard that they were going to go up for sale and was concerned that they would just fall into the hands of the county and get torn down.
“So I decided to try and create a foundation to save the buildings and not just save them, but bring businesses and people back into our community.”
The LCF aims “to promote the revitalization” of the Lagro community through education, historic preservation, beautification of public spaces and marketing of town’s natural amenities.
With the Wabash River Trail’s development targeting Lagro for its first phase of the project, opportunity has presented itself for Lagro to grow, according to Gillespie.
“Lagro is at a crossroads,” she said. “Whether you are for or against the bike trail, this presents a large opportunity in Lagro. We have to make a decision. We’re either going to grow and prosper or we’re going to maintain the status quo and dwindle and continue to dwindle.”
Later, she added, “I talked to a Realtor not too long ago and she said that whether you like the bike trail or not, many people are moving into communities, that’s one of the things they look for. Are there trails available? So we’re in a really good position to take advantage of the bike going through our community.”
The LCF’s first project plans to add more quality of life amenities by restoring and preserving the town’s three oldest buildings: Citizens Bank of Lagro, the Masonic Lodge and the IORM (Improved Order of the Red Man). The proposal’s cost will be approximately $1 million.
The renovations would provide apartments and commercial space on Washington Street, near the Davis Street bridge and Wabash River, according to Gillespie.
“Restoration brings more jobs and dollars to the local economy (as) more materials and services are purchased locally further increasing the economic impact,” she explained, later adding, “Old buildings would provide inexpensive incubators for small businesses, nonprofit organizations, start-up firms and bootstrap entrepreneurs.
“Quality of life is important in attracting new people and businesses. Old buildings differentiate a community from all others.”
So far, the LCF has purchased the buildings with possession currently pending, and had structural engineering and Phase I environmental studies completed on the structures, according to Gillespie.
The project’s next steps fall into four phases.
In Phase I, the foundation plans to complete its 501c3 process, begin the grant process, remove trash from the buildings, repair and purchase sump pumps, secure windows and doors, install security cameras, complete engineering and architectural drawings and send to the state for approval, and conduct fundraisers.
Phase II will entail fire marshal inspection, replace the floors, incorporate the stairs to the basements, bring up a staircase from the first floor to the second floor and replace the roofs.
During Phase III, the LCF will install new windows, repair masonry work on the outside of the buildings, and finish the storefronts and the back patio area.
Interior renovations will begin in Phase IV and will include electrical work as well as kitchen and bathroom installations.
When completed, the building restorations will provide two to three new apartments and three renovated storefronts and interiors “that will be utilized to stimulate the local, extended community economy,” according to Gillespie.
To make the vision a reality, it will take people and support, she continued.
“The bottom line (is) this project is a community project and we need (the public’s) help,” Gillespie said. “How? By donations. We need immediate funds for operating, grant requirements, funding raising, architectural engineering, demolition and waste removal, (and) longer term donations for building and renovating the buildings.”
The LCF will be hosting fundraisers, seek matching grants and request volunteers for assistance along the way, she continued.
Until the organization receives its 501c3 status, the Community Foundation of Wabash County will hold onto any donations provided at this time, according to Gillespie.
To learn more about how to donate, contact the LCF at firstname.lastname@example.org.