Last month city officials submitted the application for a state Stellar Communities Grant, a designation that could open the way for millions of dollars to flow in to be spent on a variety of community improvements.
Mayor Joe Yochum and his team want to build an affordable housing facility, Riverview Lofts, on First Street, as well as nearly a dozen single-family homes on empty lots throughout the city. They also want to expand the city's Riverwalk and transform the green space at Gimbel Corner into an urban park with public restrooms and an amphitheater.
But Vincennes is competing against two other communities in the same population category: Madison and Greensburg.
Madison, a city of about 12,000 that sits on the banks of the Ohio River in Jefferson County in southeastern Indiana, has developed its improvement plan around the letters of its name.
M is for the “Madison Connector,” a 7-mile loop around the city that would connect the lower historic portion of the city with its upper, newer commercial center.
A is for the “adaptive reuse” of the old Tower Tack Factory into a housing facility. An old cotton mill would also be rehabilitated, and the Ohio Theater that would be restored as well. A burned-out Elks building downtown, too, would be restored.
D is for “destination development,” or the enhancement of its riverfront with new sidewalks, public restrooms, art installations and a sprucing up of its public pool.
I is for “inviting gateways” or the enhancement of its highway entrances.
S is for “student-community partnerships.” Nicole Schell, one of seven members of the Stellar executive committee there, said they hope to partner with nearby Hanover College to create job opportunities through “entrepreneurship, technology and training.” “But that is still in the very early phases,” she said.
O is for “overhauled corridors," or the restoration of second and third-floor loft spaces over Main Street.
And N marks “neighborhood stabilization,” or a focus on improved downtown sidewalks and houses in need of exterior repairs.
The Madison Stellar team, too, has created a website, www.stellarmadison.org, to connect its residents with their plan.
And, just like Vincennes, both county and city-elected officials have thrown their financial support behind the project, contributing $2.3 million in matching funds.
Greensburg, a also a city of about 12,000 that's located just 50 miles southeast of Indianapolis in Decatur County, plans to focus on city-wide improvements. Projects range from the simple repair of curbs, sidewalks and streets to walking trails near Rebekah Park, a new dog park, a splash park and the construction of an amphitheater, according to the Greensburg Daily News.
Greensburg officials also want to install new pickle ball courts in its parks and construct a children’s play place that resembles the popular Commons in Columbus, a sprawling, two-story children's paradise.
Greensburg also hopes to give its town square a “refreshing,” the newspaper said.
“And it all came from a (resident survey),” said Brent Brown, a reporter at the Greensburg Daily News. “They took input from online surveys, public meetings and formed a steering community. They created a Community Vision Plan, and all that determined the path they would follow.”
Which is similar to what Vincennes did.
The mayor, alongside Mark Hill, a former city councilman and executive director of the United Way of Knox County, held two “community conversations,” during which local residents spoke of improvement projects they'd like to see pursued as a result of Stellar, should the city be successful in its application.
The city also relied heavily on projects named in a recent downtown strategic plan and on the expertise of Ellen Harper, now executive director of the non-profit INVin but a former employee with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural affairs, one of the state Stellar partners.
State officials plan to announce the Stellar winner next month.