INDIANAPOLIS — Kendallville has won a $2 million grant from the first-ever PreservINg Main Street program.
It won’t be alone, however, despite the state originally saying there’d be only one winner, as the Indiana Office of Commiunity and Rural Affairs also awarded a grant to Brookville.
The $2 million grant can be used for making transformative facade upgrades and will also provide support for communities to establish historic preservation guidelines.
“We’re elated,” Mayor Suzanne Handshoe said Friday morning after the announcement. “This is such exciting news for us. I just see this doing wonderful things for us,” Handshoe said.
Kendallville leaders will have to attend a meeting in Indianapolis about two weeks from now to talk more about the grant and do some initial planning.
Kendallville plans to use the $2 million to work toward goals including renovating one or more “demonstration blocks” of buildings in downtown as statement pieces for historic preservation renovations, spurring second-floor development of downtown buildings, establishing a cultural/historical trail highlighting famous Kendallville figures and city history, and running programming to help building owners carry on historic preservation and building upgrades long-term.
The $2 million likely won’t be enough to accomplish all of those plans, but Handshoe and Experience the Heart of Kendallville President Kristen Johnson agree the “demonstration block” is likely first on the list.
Right now, the top candidate for the makeover is the Strand block on the east side of Main Street between Rush and William streets.
“We’re going to concetrate on the preserving the exteriors,” Handshoe said. “Make that a model block that people will want to replicate in other communities.”
That block contains some well-kept buildings like WhatchamaCAKES and the Strand, but also contains some buildings prime for improvement like the A&G Supply, which is moving out and which suffered wind damage during a storm in 2020 that was never repaired, as well as the long-vacant Paul’s Pub. There’s also opportunities for historic improvements on something like the Stout Barbell next to the Strand, which put in vinyl siding and small residential windows on its second floor after the original windows were damaged in the 2020 wind storm.
Johnson agreed that the Strand block seems like the prime candidate for a major makeover.
“Whatever we come up with has to be approved by OCRA. In my mind, I think when we talked about doing a demonstration block and doing the facade of an entire block, I think that would be very impactful,” Johnson said. “Maybe more than one block but to start with one block. That would be the block I would pick, too. If there’s money left, we’d look elsewhere.”
As part of the grant, the city will also have to work on developing and maintaining some historic preservation guidelines in downtown. A similar effort was shot down about 10 years ago, but city officials said this time around early conversations with building owners have proved to be fruitful and they’re confident the city can at least get some minimum standards in place to ensure that the historic look downtown gets preserved long-term.
“I think now it won’t be so difficult because they’ll know if we’re going to preserve our history we’re going to have to have some ordinance in place,” Handshoe said. “I know I don’t see it being as extremely restrictive as people might think. But we have to put something in place.”
Johnson said she worked on gauging interest before the city applied for the grant, because if building owners weren’t going to buy in to preservation guidelines the city wouldn’t bother.
But most people were amenable to at least some basic standards, so that’s where the city will likely start.
In past meetings, city leaders had framed the issue as more setting some minimum guidelines for people to keep their buildings in good repair, then offering suggestions for historically appropriate changes when people want to do renovation work to their buildings.
Kendallville has a partnership with its downtown consultant John Bry, who has access to a historic preservation-trained architect who could consult with building owners and offer a range of options at different price points for repairs or replacements that would fit with the city’s historic look.
“I’ve not talked to anyone who was against doing the preservation work that needs to happen, I think most people see it that this is going to benefit them, that this has become a trend,” Johnson said.
PreservINg Main Street is a joint effort between OCRA, Indiana Humanities and Indiana Landmarks. The multifaceted community development program is designed to build a sustainable historic preservation community ethic, increase local capacity for Main Street programs and serve as a comprehensive downtown revitalization model.
“I am eager to see what these two communities are able to achieve with the PreservINg Main Street grant,” Crouch said. “Main Streets are vital pieces of Indiana’s rich history and our rural communities’ future success. This program will reinstate pride in our local downtowns as unique Hoosier stories continue to be shared and celebrated.”
“Brookville and Kendallville have such a strong community presence, which was apparent during our site visits,” said OCRA Executive Director Denny Spinner. “These communities have already put in a great amount of work for this grant and I cannot wait to see all the developments they make in their towns with the help of this grant.”