INDIANAPOLIS – The NewAllen Alliance won the state's Stellar Communities designation Tuesday – along with millions to aid the regional strategy.
“We were thrilled with their project. They were much more advanced than other areas in the state because they had been working together for years,” Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said. “They are all about generational change and improving livability and making it more attractive.”
She added that the group – which comprises Leo-Cedarville, Grabill, Harlan, Woodburn, New Haven, Monroeville and Hoagland – recognized the strength of Fort Wayne's Regional Cities effort and sought to compliment it through their “East Allen Rural Revival” plan.
“Excited with three exclamation points,” said Kent Castleman, NewAllen board president.
“It's awesome to see a vision come together and be embraced by all. Four years of really honing in on the planning and lots of lots of meeting. ... It's great to be recognized.”
The Office of Community and Rural Affairs announced winners of the Stellar Communities program, which encourages Hoosier communities to work toward comprehensive regional planning.
Each region's leadership team recently presented an executive summary of their Regional Development Plan to OCRA and the state Stellar partner agencies.
This plan is a four-year comprehensive community revitalization strategy that identifies projects, an implementation schedule, cost, funding resources and the significance of each project to the community.
The Stellar Communities program will provide about $5.8 million of the $17 million for projects in the NewAllen Alliance, according to the application.
The group has already identified $2.2 million in local matching leverage funds and $8.8 million in private investment via a tax credit to a developer.
NewAllen's list of proposed projects includes:
• Streetscape improvements in Grabill, Leo-Cedarville and Woodburn
• East Allen County Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation program for assistance to homeowners who want to fix up their houses
• Improvement of Forest Street sidewalks in Monroeville and Woodburn
• Monroe Street corridor improvements in Monroeville
• New Haven/Adams Township Community Center Park development
• New Haven Meadowbrook Trail
• Development of Katy Gene Cove low-income senior housing tax-credit project in New Haven
• Healthy Eating Active Living project to address obesity
An additional 29 complimentary projects with other funding worth $47.7 million are also part of the plan, which is worth more than $64 million.
The other winner was Health and Heritage – comprised of the city of Greenfield, the town of Fortville and Hancock County in central Indiana.
“The respective regions worked diligently together, which was evident in the delivery of each presentation,” said Jodi Golden, executive director of OCRA. “I'd like to applaud the hard work, collaboration and commitment from the five finalists this year and I look forward to seeing their plans be put into action.”
Through the annual designation, the Stellar Communities Program helps communities by using previous planning efforts, leveraging existing assets, fostering regional investments and stimulating continued growth.
“This designation will exponentially aid the economic development of east Allen County, especially the seven communities involved with the East Allen Alliance,” said Rep. Dave Heine, R-Fort Wayne.
Castleman said the designation sets aside the money for the projects to submit individually depending on the municipality involved. January will be spent fine-tuning and then presenting the projects in more detail in February to state agencies involved.
The state's lieutenant governor said she recently visited the Healthy Eating Active Living project and was impressed by the vision and the tasty food.
“They are trying to encourage healthy eating habits, nutrition,” Crouch said.
“They are going into food desert areas and setting up that program to ensure all Hoosiers have an equal opportunity to nutrition.”