Downtown Kendallville

The historic Iddings-Gilbert-Leader-Anderson block on the west side of North Main Street stands before a cloudless sky Wednesday afternoon.

KENDALLVILLE — Now that Kendallville has been awarded the $2 million PreservINg Main Street, it needs to find an architect skilled in historic preservation to help design the city’s large-scale facade project.

The city is still in the process of rounding up which building owners in the downtown corridor want to participate in renovating their buildings, with Kendallville asking them to put up a match of just 15% in order to get 85% of the cost covered by state grant dollars.

Once the city has a roster of building owners who have the cash and are ready to move forward, the next step will be working with them to do a technical design of the upgrades they’d like to make.

At Tuesday’s Kendallville City Council meeting, consultant Shannon McLeod of Priority Project Resources — who has been assisting Kendallville on the PreservINg Main Street and previously helped the city get its $600,000 streetscape grant — gave an update on what happens next in the process.

After the city successfully made its general pitch and being awarded the grant, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs now has $2 million with Kendallville’s name on it. Now, the state just needs a detailed plan of what the city wants to do with that money, McLeod said.

“The money has been set aside and earmarked for you,” she said. “We have to solidify exactly what we’re going to do with those funds.”

The grant must be used for historic facade upgrades in the downtown historical district and in order to prepare that project, Kendallville is going to need professional help.

Unlike the city’s 50/50 matching facade grants, the state grant requires a more thorough engineering and budget forecast, primarily because the work will have to be competitively bid to contractors.

In the local facade grant through the Kendallville Redevelopment Commission, building owners generally seek smaller maintenance and replacement items and then simply get quotes from area providers, or even can do the work themselves with the city helping to pay for materials.

That wouldn’t fly for the Main Street grant, which is technically federal money funneled through the state to local communities.

McLeod said the city will request qualifications from architecture firms interested in the job and then a review panel will select one to help design the project and prepare it for bid.

Architecture costs could take up to $200,000 for that pre-construction, work, representing about 10% of the total grant amount.

Downtown building owners at an informational meeting a week ago questioned how much design work might cost out of the grant total, hoping to keep those costs as low as possible to leave as much money available for construction.

Even if design costs eat up a tenth of the grant total, the city would have $1.8 million available for physical work. With the 15% match building owners have to put in, that would put the total construction budget at approximately $2.12 million.

The city is moving aggressively in order to meet the state’s two-year timeline for the PreservINg Main Street project. Design work will take place over the winter, with McLeod stating the city would ideally take its project to bid around May.

Construction would then likely start in summer 2022.

The city will also be establishing historic preservation guidelines and a commission to manage them, which is a requirement of the grant.

City officials have stated that group will not dictate what building owners can or can’t do with their buildings, but instead would be there to offer historically appropriate recommendations for future upgrades.

Although the commission wouldn’t be able to forbid a building owner from making a non-historic change to their property, city leaders said financial support for projects like facade grants or other public funds could hinge on an owner’s willingness to try to make historically-appropriate changes to their properties.

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