Soon after it was announced last October that Madison, Ind., had been selected by state officials as the 2017 Stellar Communities Designee, which comes with up to $6 million in investment in the community, the telephone calls started coming in from civic groups and local business owners: “How do we get some of that money?”
Madison Stellar Donors
(As of Aug. 27, 2018)
German American Bank, $50,000
Foundation of Madison-Jefferson Co., $80,000
Koehler Tire, $10,000 (Heritage Park)
Madison Courier, $10,000
Riverfront Development Committee, $67,500 (Sidewalk Extension)
KDH Health, $20,000
Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corp., $5,000
Farmers Bank of Milton, $15,000 (Hilltop Playground)
Yunker Foundation, $1,000
Anonymous donor, $100,000
Individual donor, $3,000 (trails)
Individual donor, $1,979.31
Individual donor, $1,000
Individual donor, $100
9 Individual donors, $40 each ($360)
Total = $424,939.31
Andrew Forrester, the city of Madison’s Community Relations Director, fielded the calls, since he had served as the face of the initiative throughout the application process.
“People thought there was this big pot of gold that we were getting and could just spend it however we like,” he said. “But that’s not the case.”
In fact, the money that will become available can only be used for those projects that were included in the original Stellar program proposal, Forrester explained. It is a lofty list, to be sure, with various projects large and small.
“A lot of behind the scenes work has been going on since November,” Forrester said. “But some projects are starting to take shape already.”
Launched in 2011, the Stellar Designation program is a multi-agency partnership designed to recognize Indiana’s smaller communities that have identified comprehensive community and economic development projects and activities. The initiative is operated by the Indiana Lieutenant Governor’s office and funded by three state agencies: the Indiana Housing and Community Economic Development Authority, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs and the Indiana Department of Transportation.
There are two divisions of the program – one for cities with 6,000-50,000 residents and another for cities under 6,000 residents. The city of Madison beat out two other finalists – Greensburg and Vincennes – in the Division I category for cities above 6,000 residents. Culver won Division II.
As a Stellar community designee, Madison will indeed receive grant money from the state program, but the projects will also be funded with local funds and corporate donors. Since the announcement, the money has been rolling in from various sources including local businesses, corporate entities and the Community Foundation of Madison-Jefferson County. Stellar projects will result in a total of $65 million in investments over the next four years. Investments will be made up of donations to the Stellar fund, state grants, tax credits, city’s contributions and private investments, Forrester said. State officials would like to see the city of Madison contribute at least 20 percent of the $6 million grant funds, but it is not a requirement, said Nicole Schell, Madison’s City Planner and Preservation Coordinator.
The Stellar Committee, along with the public, formulated the list of Madison’s projects and guided the application process. Now we have four years to raise the necessary matching funds and complete their projects, Forrester said.
Since there are three separate state departments participating in the Stellar program, the $6 million in potential investment has been divided among those areas, with up to $2 million to be spent in each category –– those essentially being transportation (motorist or pedestrian), community development and housing-oriented revitalization. The amounts can also be counted from such things as tax credits to help a project move forward. One example of this is the former Tack Factory on West Second Street that recently sold to a developer who plans to build a senior housing complex with 50 units.
File photo by Don Ward
Rehabbing the former Cotton Mill on the Madison, Ind., riverfront ranks as a top priority of the Stellar program.
In addition to the Tack Factory, Forrester said the most popular feedback was developing the old Cotton Mill that sits empty and dilapidated on the Madison riverfront. It is the largest building in downtown and has sat idle for many years. It is now up for sale. “This would be by far the biggest project for us to tackle,” Forrester said.
Another top priority is developing the empty shopping center plaza lot on the hilltop at Clifty Drive and Michigan Road.
Also ranking high was rehabilitating the Ohio Theater, which is now owned by the nonprofit “Friends of the Ohio Theatre.” The proposal also includes finishing the Madison Connector pedestrian and bicycle path across the hilltop. Perhaps longterm in the scope of things, the committee plans to install sidewalks along Clifty Drive on the hilltop. This project is slated for 2021, the last year of Madison’s Stellar funding.
“Some of these projects would have never happened without Stellar money,” said Schell, who oversees the implementation of the Stellar Designation. “The state is helping the city pay for some projects that it would otherwise not be as heavily involved in.”
Meantime, the Stellar Committee plans to direct $250,000 in neighborhood revitalization projects for 10 households in the community.
Upcoming projects in the community revitalization area include the Ohio Theatre, Georgetown Park on north Walnut Street, upgrading Crystal Beach Swimming Complex and upgrading the playground on the hilltop near the current skate park on North Gate Road.
Other projects are complementary to the Stellar designation, including the former Madison Elks building, destroyed by fire in August 2006. It has recently been purchased by local residents Larry and Valecia Crisafulli and is being converted into an apartment building. While it won’t receive Stellar funds, Madison being named a Stellar Community helped them receive a state grant to revitalize the building.
In the transportation category, the Stellar Committee plans to extend the riverfront sidewalk from its current easternmost ending point below the Milton-Madison Bridge another eighth of a mile to the Madison City Campground. The existing sidewalk was funded through contributions made to the Madison Riverfront Development Committee.
“These meetings help us gather further public input,” Schell said. “The members of the group come from different backgrounds and different parts of the community, and we use their input to help with implementation of the projects.”
“That project will be $150,000 plus,” Forrester said. The timetable to complete it is by the end of this year or early next year, he added. “There is no state money available for it, but the Riverfront Development Committee is contributing up to $67,500.”
The Stellar Committee also plans to upgrade the restroom building at the campground. “The current building is very old and woefully inadequate,” Forrester said.
“One Madison” was a theme of projects developed during the city’s recent participation over the past two years in the America’s Best Communities contest. In that contest, Madison reached the eight-city finals but did not place in the top three. However, the contest enabled Madison to create a Comprehensive Plan, which was necessary to apply for a Stellar Communities Designation. The city also collected a total of $150,000 in prize money from the contest.
Forrester said the team realizes it cannot do all the proposals on the table in the next four years, “so we are trying to narrow the focus and raise funds to complete as many of the projects as possible.”
Madison’s Stellar Team is comprised of an eight-person Executive Committee that meets monthly and a larger Advisory Committee, which meets three times a year. The meetings are televised on TV-15, Madison’s local access channel. The next public meeting is set for 4 p.m. on Sept. 12 at Madison City Hall.
• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: info@RoundAbout.bz.
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