Downtown Kendallville

Downtown Kendallville is pictured looking north from Rush Street, with City Hall visible on the left side, following completion of the downtown streetscape and Main Street repaving work.

INDIANAPOLIS — Kendallville’s now got a 1-in-5 shot of winning a $2 million Main Street grant.

On Friday morning, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs announced the five finalists for its new PreservINg Main Street grant, which can provide money for downtown projects as well as offer support for setting up historic preservation guidelines.

Kendallville made the shortlist, clinching one of the five finalist slots from a field of 25 applicants.

Kendallville was joined by Attica, Brookville, Cambridge City and Jasper in the finalist pool.

“I am super excited. We received our phone call yesterday and were asked to not say anything until they did the press release this morning,” Mayor Suzanne Handshoe said on Friday. “I’m so happy we made this top cut. We’re going to do everything we can do to get us over the finish line. This will be really big for our downtown and historic preservation of our downtown.”

“Experience the Heart of Kendallville and the city of Kendallville are very excited to be named a top five finalist for this grant opportunity,” Kendallville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kristen Johnson said. “Our organizations have been working diligently behind the scenes to create a vibrant and thriving downtown, and winning this grant would provide an opportunity for substantial impact towards that goal, while also providing us with the historic preservation tools to maintain the integrity of our beautiful older buildings.”

Kendallville will now be up next for a site visit from OCRA grant selectors, who will visit the community to look at its Main Street and discuss with city leaders what’s happened up to this point and what’s up next for downtown.

Handshoe said Kendallville will get its visit on Wednesday, Aug. 11, and city officials will be taking visitors around to show off the progress that’s been made and talk about how a big grant award could help advance the city’s goals further.

“Part of it is going to be that we’re hopeful to move forward with the Main Street manager, so someone who would have the passion to help us get new businesses and eateries in the downtown, as well as showing us how we can preserve some of the buildings we have,” Handshoe said. “Now we need to do some things to help preserve the history of the buildings.”

Handshoe said the city will also show off its new streetscape, point out progress made on fixing up downtown buildings and talk about the forthcoming pocket park across from City Hall that is being funded primarily through private donations.

After the site visits in early August, OCRA is expected to announced the single winner of the $2 million grant on Aug. 27.

In partnership with Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Humanities, PreservINg Main Street is designed to build a sustainable historic preservation ethic while building local capacity and a comprehensive downtown revitalization model.

The pilot community selected will be eligible for implementation funds of up to $2 million through OCRA’s Community Development Block Grant program, along with multiple capacity building opportunities through a partnership with Main Street America, Indiana Humanities and Indiana Landmarks.

“Congratulations to these communities on moving forward in this program’s selection process,” Indiana Lt. Gov Suzanne Crouch said in a statement announcing the finalists. “Programs like PreservINg Main Street are important in helping our rural communities with the promotion of their downtowns and historic preservation.”

“This was a very competitive program with dozens of communities applying,” said OCRA Executive Director Denny Spinner. “While we saw many great applications, these five communities really stood out. We look forward to continue working with these finalists and visiting the communities in the next steps.”

Kendallville is still in the midst of transformative projects downtown, starting with the $1.53 million streetscape project that started last year and is still wrapping up this summer.

City officials are waiting for final electrical work to complete after months of delays in that process. Once completed, the city will have to plant trees downtown that have been lying in wait since approximately November.

Earlier this week, city engineer Scott Derby said the electrical work is finally on schedule to finish within about the next week and he had already given a heads up to the city street department that tree placement could get done by the end of this month.

Decorative benches haven’t been put out yet and the city hasn’t rolled its mobile parklet, a movable seating area that is placed in front of the Kendallville Area Chamber of Commerce Office during the warm weather months, yet either.

Those items may now rapidly occur over the next two weeks as the city is trying to put all the cherries on top of its downtown ahead of the OCRA site visit.

Road crews from Niblock Excavating were also in town the last two weeks repaving Main Street and its side streets for the first time in years. Norfolk Southern railroad crews are also currently completing a rail replacement and crossing replacement on Main Street, which is expected to finish by the end of this month.

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