The city's Redevelopment Commission on Thursday agreed to give $500,000 to help fund projects included in the city's Stellar Communities grant application.
Mayor Joe Yochum, in an effort to raise a $2 million match in both public and private investment, asked the RDC to give $125,000 annually over the next four years, and RDC members were wholeheartedly in favor of supporting the application and the projects it includes — expansion of the Riverwalk, a housing complex to be built on First Street at the site of the old grain silos and the transformation of the Gimbel Corner into an urban park.
Specifically, Yochum said the RDC's contribution would likely go toward the demolition of the silos so a 32-unit housing complex could be erected in its place by Myszak + Palmer Architecture and Development.
RDC member Bob Slayton thought the Stellar designation — and all the quality of life improvements that could come with it — “key” to the city's future.
“I absolutely support this,” he said of the mayor's request for funding. “Not only Stellar (proposed projects) but all the developments currently taking place along the river.
“Those silos are such an eyesore, an impediment,” he said.
Tim Smith, too, said he was energized when the RDC got a request he saw true to its mission, “redeveloping old property into something new,” he told his fellow board members.
“Quite frankly, we don't get a lot of those,” Smith said. “So I love it when we do.”
“I support it completely — if we can afford it.”
“I'd love to see some housing down there, so I completely support it,” said RDC member Marc McNeece. “But we have to be able to afford it.”
And there lies the problem.
As RDC members look to embark upon a three-phase effort to improve Main Street from 22nd Street out to Richard Bauer Drive, it's unlikely they can do all that and commit $500,000 to the Stellar application.
Yochum thought the RDC could sell bonds to fund the Main Street projects, thereby freeing up cashflow to help with Stellar, too.
But Wayne Thomann, the RDC's financial advisor with Kemper CPA Group, was unsure bonding would be an option since the RDC will be disbanded, per state law, in 2028.
The RDC would need at least 10 years to bond and pay off a major project.
And projecting how much the Main Street projects will cost, he added, especially given some of the anticipated start dates are still years away, is “impossible” to do before the Stellar application is due on Aug. 25.
“If you're going to bond (Main Street), you had to do it yesterday,” Thomann said. “You only have (10) years left.
“It's getting tight,” he said of their current financial commitments.
The city has received a state grant to pay for the second, most expensive phase of the Main Street project, which includes the area from the old Kmart property out to Sievers Road, specifically the redesign of its intersection with Felt King Road. The process has begun but work isn't expected to get under way until 2020.
“I think it's worth taking that risk,” he said, “even if we have to modify something else or defer something.
“I think we should fund (Stellar),” he said, calling the designation “transformational” for an Indiana community. “If we don't do this now, then when?”
Thomann then backpedaled a bit on his original advice, saying even in his “ultra-conservative” opinion, committing to Stellar probably wouldn't “make or break” the Main Street projects.
But, he warned, that would likely be it for the RDC.
“Main Street may be the last project you ever do,” Thomann said.
“So no more levee (repairs). No more paving Hart Street at some point,” McNeece said.
“Well, we'd have short meetings,” said RDC vice-president Beth Meeks to lighten the mood.
Smith, however, reminded his fellow RDC members that the disbanding of the RDC — or even a tightening of its belt — shouldn't mean the end of all infrastructure projects in Vincennes.
“Not every project is our (responsibility),” he said. “Other entities will have to figure it out.”