Indiana's Stellar Communities program, of which Greencastle was one of two cities selected in the inaugural effort, has earned national accolades, Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman has announced.
The Stellar Program received the Council of State Community Development Agency's 2012 Presidential Award for Innovation during the organization's annual conference Monday evening in Gulfport, Miss.
The award recognizes innovative activities, policies or programs that have been implemented at the state level, which have demonstrated success in solving community needs. The Presidential Award for Innovation is one of three awards the agency presents annually.
"We knew the Stellar Communities program was innovative when officials from states around the country contacted us to learn more about it," Skillman said. "Although we appreciate the recognition, we are excited by the fact that our Stellar Communities are making a big impact in a short timeframe thanks to state agency cooperation."
Launched in 2011 by Lt. Gov. Skillman, Stellar Communities is a collaboration between the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Office of Community and Rural Affairs and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to help fund communities' strategic investment plans. The competition among cities and towns who apply for the program is considered extreme and the selection process intense, she noted.
Winning communities are awarded multimillion-dollar grants from the state to implement their areas' strategic plan in three years. Without the Stellar Communities program such plans could take up to 20 years to fund and implement. Stellar Communities are required to also gain investments from private organizations and businesses.
Greencastle was awarded more than $19 million for such programs as the downtown facade renovation, streetscape improvements, a downtown parking garage, owner-occupied housing restorations and related work.
Stellar Communities have reported that they have received additional investments beyond the original commitments from private organizations, Skillman pointed out.
Also, communities were easily able to form partnerships due to the program. For instance, Greencastle formed a partnership with DePauw University, leveraging DPU funds for a new campus gateway on Anderson Street to help accelerate additional community and economic plans.
Greencastle and North Vernon were selected for the pilot program in March of 2011. In May, Delphi and Princeton were named Stellar Communities for 2012.