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Regional Cities: Board weighs in on 26 projects across several area counties

An initiative that will award $42-million to economic-based projects across St. Joseph, Marshall and Elkhart counties is moving toward identifying which projects will be awarded.

Twenty-six projects were submitted under the Regional Cities Initiative, which awarded the pot of money to our region earlier this year. On Monday, the Regional Development Authority, the board that oversees the allocation, reviewed all 26 applications.

Projects range from renovations to the Goshen Theater, to a center in downtown South Bend encompassing a grocery, pharmacy, and retail space, to a business incubator in Marshall County.

The Board will review the projects and decide if they align with the goal of the initiative, to promote economic growth and community well-being at the local and regional level.

On Monday, leaders identified three marquee projects in each county; South Bend Blue Ways, a community wellness and aquatic center in Elkhart, and a housing development in Marshall County. Leaders ranked all the projects with a letter grade that they used as a baseline to divide the 26 applications.

At the next meeting, according to the Board, they will review those determinations and potentially recommend specific projects to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the state agency that ultimately will approve, or disapprove of their decision, and then award the money.

“I think the big priorities that came out of today’s meeting were one, projects that build on infrastructure, housing, and development, especially around the river,” said John Affleck-Graves, Chairman of the Regional Development Authority. “The other big one that came from it is a sports complex, natatorium.”

Some projects, like the natatorium, will move on whether it is awarded regional cities money or not, according to Pete McCown, with the Community Foundation. McCown said the plans for the aquatic center would be downsized if the project was not awarded RCI money.

Other projects have yet to identify specific funding sources. Each project, should they be awarded, would receive 20% of RCI money, 20% local government, and 60% private funds. That formula, though, was not across all projects.

Some projects did not incorporate local money and instead used nearly 80% of private funds.

The South Shore project which would encompass a rail-extension and realignment, could incorporate federal dollars. The goal of that project is to cut down the trip to Chicago to 90 minutes.

“It’s certainly a very worthy project and one that would be important to this area to reduce the time to commute to Chicago,” said Kristin Pruitt, of the Regional Development Authority. “The question is whether it would actually reduce the travel time to over one hour from South Bend to Chicago seemed like it was a little bit optimistic.”

The board, made up of several high-ranking local officials from all the counties and Notre Dame, will meet again next week to begin the prioritization process. It’s possible that the Board could choose some projects to recommend to the IEDC at that meeting.

There will not be an opportunity for the public to voice their opinion, according to Affleck-Graves. He said the public’s input is funneled through the 26 proposed projects.

However, if there are any comments regarding those proposals, you're asked to contact Michiana Partnership at 574-400-5432 or michianaregion.com. The next meeting is Tuesday August 2nd from 8-10AM.


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