State awards Vevay Main Street a rural development grant of over $300,000

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Amy Vaughn, director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, was joined by other state officials last Friday morning in Vevay for a press conference to announce that Vevay was one of only three communities in the state to receive funds from a new redevelopment program.

The program, which was announced by Indiana Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman, is a new pilot program aimed at redeveloping main streets throughout rural Indiana. The grant program, called the “Real Estate Capital Access Program” – or RECAP – is a source of funding that will be used to facilitate the development of commercial space and related residential space in areas that might not otherwise be revitalized, particularly in the main street areas of rural communities and small towns.

Vevay, along with Logansport in Cass County and Wabash in Wabash County, was selected as a pilot community for the program. Each of communities will receive more than $333,000 – expected to be near $350,000 – in loans and grants to assist the local communities with redeveloping entire buildings. Developers can put commercial space on the ground floor to encourage business development, and living units on the upper floors to create homes.

“We hope that this new program will provide development funding for programs that don’t meet traditional fund criteria,” Amy Vaughn said at the press conference announcing the program. “Those programs, however, play a key role in rural downtown development.”

Amy Vaughn said that 59 million people visit Indiana each year, bring more than $4 billion into local economies in terms of dollars spent. She said that this new RECAP program is a cooperative effort between the Tourism office, the Indiana House and Community Development Authority; and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

“We are really proud to be able to partner with these other state agencies to create a dynamic program like RECAP,” Heather Powell of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs said. “Housing was really the lead agency on this, but we all believe that this program is really going to have a positive benefit on small rural communities.”

“We all know that Indiana visitors enjoy our charming small towns,” Amy Vaughn said. “By revitalizing our downtown areas, we can create more destinations for our visitors and increase the economic impact to our state.”

Speaking at the press conference was Vevay Town Council president Pete Furnish, who told the crowd that things are really moving in the community.

“We are excited to be a part of the RECAP program,” Pete Furnish said. “This will allow us to explore various retail opportunities. These small towns have built Indiana and made Indiana what it is. We’re looking forward to what’s coming down the road.”

Angie Satterfield, who works with “A Vision of Switzerland County” through the tourism office, kindled the excitement at what lies ahead through the use of this grant – and others that may come.

“This is really exciting. Things are really rocking,” she said. “All of things that have happened and are happening are a cooperative effort. These groups understand the importance of collaboration. Our partnership just got stronger with the addition of the RECAP program.”

Angie Satterfield told the audience that she has heard the lieutenant governor say that the main street of a community serves as that community’s “front door”, and that through programs such as RECAP, Vevay will continue with the improvements that have already begun, keeping the momentum rolling for even more development.

“It’s this sense of character and civic pride that gives this project it’s momentum,” Angie Satterfield said.

Nathan Crane, president of Vevay Main Street, issued a challenge to everyone in attendance, asking them to not rest on the accomplishments that have already been achieved, but to continue to work to even greater heights.

“As we move forward with this project,” Nathan Crane said. “I challenge each of you and the organizations that you represent to find ways that you can be a part of this.”

David Kaufmann, who represented the Indiana Department of Housing and Community Development Authority at Friday’s press conference, said that Friday’s announcement – Vevay was the first community in the state to receive the funds – was the culmination of a lot of work at the state level.

“We formed this cooperative effort last fall,” David Kaufmann said. “We’ve been thinking about it for about a year, but things really began to pick up momentum as other agencies got onboard with the idea.”

David Kaufmann said that his organization has heard for many years how terrific it would be if the state could come along and encourage investment in rural communities, “So we began to ask the question: ‘What can we do?'”, David Kaufmann said. “It wasn’t that there was a lack of interest for local people; and it wasn’t a lack of interest for private developers and investors. We just needed a way to bring everyone together.”

The money coming to Vevay will basically be broken into three areas: preparation funds needed until construction begins; loan-loss reserve money; and matching grant funds to supplement existing programs.

The majority of the money will be held in the loan-loss reserve, according to David Kaufmann.

“We would expect to invest in two to four projects here in Vevay,” David Kaufmann said. “We hope that these funds will generate about $5 million in investment in this community, which is very exciting for everyone.”

As far as a timeline, David Kaufmann said that he hopes that Vevay has a redevelopment project identified and in place by the end of the year – with 2008 and 2009 being targeted as the time when the actual redevelopment work will be done.

He anticipates the entire process to take 24-36 months to cycle through.

All of the agencies involved say that flexibility is really the key to the success of the RECAP program, with eligible activities falling in line with the program’s goals being such things as property acquisition, rehabilitation, or new construction of real estate.