PreservINg Main Street

KENDALLVILLE — When visitors come to Kendallville with $2 million to give away, what do you show them and who guides the tour in order to convince them to give it to you?

City leaders huddled Tuesday to try to figure that out.

Kendallville officials met at the Kendallville Area Chamber of Commerce office on Tuesday to discuss strategies before grant selectors from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs visit downtown on Wednesday, Aug. 11.

The city is hoping to be awarded a $2 million grant from OCRA’s PreservINg Main Street program, which is designed for rural communities to help revitalize its downtown areas and assist with historic preservation efforts.

Kendallville finished as one of five finalists from a list of 25 applicants for the brand new grant program.

The winner of the grant will be required to raise $200,000 as a match, half of which will be used for building capacity for the Main Street organization including hiring new staff, while the other would be used for a humanities project.

Now a finalist, the city has to make its case to grant judges in order to win the sole $2 million prize.

They won’t have a lot of time to do it either, with just three hours total to win over OCRA.

The Aug. 11 visit will start at 10 a.m. with a video interview, then a welcome, introduction and community presentation period starting at 11 a.m. After a 30-minute question and answer session from 11:40 to 12:10 and a short break, the city will have just 40 minutes to show off their project area before OCRA officials pack up and leave town at 1 p.m.

During the meeting Tuesday, attendees discussed where to host the selectors during their visit and everyone in the room came to an agreement on having them in downtown at a place like City Hall or Hosler Realty, which recently underwent a major renovation project and has become a statement piece in downtown Kendallville.

Kristen Johnson, executive director of the Kendallville Area Chamber of Commerce, emphasized having as many from the local business community and other community partners as possible in attendance for the visit to show OCRA the project has wide-ranging support.

Officials at the meeting discussed including historic preservation in its presentation to OCRA — the city currently doesn’t have guidelines in place or a preservation commission, things that the city would get support in creating if it wins the grant — and what the city is doing to help restore old buildings on Main Street through programs like its facade grants that help building owners replace windows, paint, fix roofs and do other repairs or upgrades.

They later discussed about including humanities projects the city has plans for. They agreed having a local history buff like Terry Housholder of KPC Media Group, who researched and wrote a book detailing Kendallville’s first 150 years of history, present to give the historical background about Kendallville could also be beneficial during the presentation.

But city leaders are also considering looking outside of downtown, to show off other quality of life amenities Kendallville has to offer.

Another idea mentioned during the meeting was including locations like Bixler Lake Park and the sports complex down the road from it and talking about how they both are connected to the downtown area.

The Mid-America Windmill Museum and the Cole Center Family YMCA were other attractions mentioned as something to tie in to the presentation about how Main Street serves as a hub for all these other places in the city and how it contributes to the city’s overall quality of life.

Kendallville will have to persuade the selectors by discussing new things are happening in downtown and what efforts they are making to help revitalize the area.

Kendallville is in the midst of other projects like repaving Main Street and replacing the rail at the street’s railroad crossing.

The city is also working on finishing its $1.53 million streetscape project that replaced the sidewalks and curbs and is currently waiting for electrical work and trees to be planted in downtown.

City officials are now working to get Main Street cleaned up and show-ready before the Aug. 11 visit.

The one winner of the $2 million grant is expected to be announced on Aug. 27.

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