(BEDFORD) - The City of Bedford was awarded one of two 2013 Stellar Community grants.
The announcement was made Friday, but not publicly.
The sources that report that Bedford had won came after Michael Thissen of the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs (OCRA) sent emails to the mayors of the cities of Petersburg and Wabash thanking those communities for participating in the Stellar Communities program and notifying them that they had not won, but Bedford and Richmond had been selected as the designees.
The city learned in March the city is among six finalists contending for the grants designed to fund comprehensive community development projects in Indiana's smaller communities.
The finalists were Angola, Bedford, Frankfort, Petersburg, Richmond and Wabash. This is the third year for the Stellar program. Bedford was a finalist in 2011, but failed to advance in 2012 when 40 communities applied for the highly-competitive grants. Twenty-four sought the awards this year.
Richmond was the other winner.
Bedford could reap up to $12 million dollars,
"Our focus is on the downtown area," Mayor Shawn Girgis said earlier at a commissioners meeting . "We want to see it be a destination where people want to be."
Girgis says the grant money will ensure Bedford and Lawrence County a trained and ready workforce; promote economic development; cultivate a vibrant downtown district; and enhance the city's quality of life.
Girgis says the grant will transform the city's hub into a popular gathering place.
The plans are to refashioning the old JC Penney Building, which once served as the Downtown Convention Center, into the Stonegate Arts & Education Center. The old Milwaukee Depot would be moved to the lot on J Street once occupied by Cherio Liquors. The renovated rail station would serve as a trail head leading to an urban trail, public plaza, festival space, and senior rental housing. And hopefully in the future when the city secures a deal with CSX to purchase the railroad it can be used as a connection from Bedford to Mitchell.
The Indiana Department of Transportation would provide the city with an estimated half a million dollars to move the depot.
Hoosier Uplands would spearhead development of the senior apartments, facade restoration, and downtown business development by renovating retail space and offering it to businesses at "below-market lease rates that will gradually increase over time and allow for the purchase of the building."
The stellar project is a joint endeavor between the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA), the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA), and the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).
Bedford Mayor Shawn Girgis, Marla Jones and Gene McCracken of the Lawrence County Economic Growth Council, Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce President Jamie Medlock, Lawrence County Community Foundation Executive Director Hope Flores, Hoosier Uplands CEO David Miller, and Bedford Director of Operations Kyle Brown were among others offering input to the city's plan.
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