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Public can weigh in on potential regional projects

June 4th, 2015

News Coverage:

Public can weigh in on potential regional projects

Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:01 am, Thu Jun 4, 2015.

KPC News Service

FORT WAYNE — A list of regional projects intended to boost northeast Indiana’s quality of life is now available for public review online.

Once prioritized, some of the projects will be included in the region’s proposal to win $42 million in funding through the state of Indiana’s Regional Cities Initiative.

Feedback on the projects will be accepted through June 15, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and Greater Fort Wayne Inc. said in an news release. The deadline to submit the region’s proposal to the state is July 1.

According to the two organizations, the public feedback will help prioritize “Phase 1 projects” that would benefit from $42 million in matching funding over two years that will be awarded by the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

The agency has a total of $84 million in matching funds available for its Regional Cities Initiative, and two winning regions could be selected by the end of the year.

The Regional Partnership and Greater Fort Wayne have been working over the last six months to assemble a slate of quality-of-life projects to submit for the Regional Cities Initiative competition. The goal of the initiative is to make Indiana a magnet for talent attraction by creating a national identity for Indiana cities, the organizations said in the news release.

An “unfiltered” portfolio of $1 billion in investments and more than 70 projects from across the 11-county region has been compiled, the organizations said. The portfolio will be refined after the public comment period ends and before the proposal is submitted to the state by a northeast Indiana regional development authority that is presently being formed.

A steering committee created earlier this year to oversee northeast Indiana’s proposal will weigh the public’s priorities and comments along with the IEDC’s Regional Cities Initiative guidelines to ensure each project significantly adds to the region’s competitive position to win matching funding, the organizations said.

“We are confident that we are creating a compelling proposal that will accelerate growth in our region, the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” Regional Cities Initiative steering committee Co-Chair Tim Pape, a partner at Carson Boxberger LLP in Fort Wayne, said in the news release. “We have a relentless drive to succeed here in northeast Indiana, and we believe the state will see our potential for progress and have no doubt that we are indeed an investment-worthy community.”

The list of projects draws from hundreds of existing community plans; focus-group meetings that were held in each of the 11 counties; interviews with stakeholders; walking tours; and planned private-sector investments. The full portfolio will include Phase 1 projects (years 1 and 2); longer-term projects (years 3-8 implementation); and ideas for projects beyond the Regional Cities Initiative’s initial eight-year time frame.

“We are asking for your input to make sure our Phase 1 projects reflect the gritty determination and bold ingenuity that this region is known for,” steering committee Co-Chair Tom Leedy, president of the Dekko Foundation in Kendallville, said in the news release. “We are the largest regional collaboration in the state, and we know that we are stronger together. That collaboration is what has gotten us this far, and we look to you now again to offer your feedback as we near the finish line.”

To provide feedback on the proposed Phase 1 projects, go to neindiana.com/regionalcities.

Area projects on the list

The list of proposed regional projects includes these ideas for the four northeast counties of Indiana:

• Replacing the existing Michiana Event Center in LaGrange County at the same site, including a convention center, arena, horse stable and hotel.

• Downtown Kendallville streetscape enhancements.

• The Northern Indiana Lakes County Enterprise Center in Angola, which converts an existing complex into a business incubator space.

• A state-certified technology park near Angola, at the Interstate 69 interchange, with incubator space for high-tech businesses.

• Regional trail network projects, including a DeKalb Visionary Trail from Waterloo to the National Military History Center; a trail from Angola to Pokagon State Park on the Steuben Visionary Trail; and the Ligonier Riverwalk.

• Steuben County park projects to increase accessibility for people with disabilities and upgrade restroom facilities to accommodate larger groups.

• Expanding the Kendalville Outdoor Recreation Complex with a mobile community stage and adding new baseball-softball fields with fencing, lighting and parking.