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Thanks to being designated a "stellar community" by the state, it didn't take long for this small town to do some heavy lifting.
North Liberty was named a participant in the state's three-year Stellar Communities program in 2015, and that status has helped it quickly get grant funding for projects.
Notable "stellar projects" in the planning stages include a facade restoration program for downtown business, the expansion of housing for seniors, a trail from the town to Potato Creek State Park and a splash pad for children at the town park.
Vicki Kitchen, the town's clerk-treasurer, said the Stellar program has given the town a competitive edge when applying for grants. A handful of projects are expected to be done in the coming years.
"It probably would have otherwise taken five to 10 years just to have all of the funding in place to do downtown projects," she said.
The downtown area is expected to soon get a major makeover as a result of a $2 million grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The grant led the town to hire an engineering firm last year to design facade improvements for downtown businesses, which will soon have facades renovated.
Vivian Bolen, an owner of Over The Top Bakery Cafe, said her business is among about 20 that are set to participate in the grant program, which will cover 95 percent of project costs.
"Our building's in pretty good shape, but we're going to get everything touched up," she said, adding that downtown improvements are expected to impress visitors. "This is the biggest first step we've had since we won the award from the state."
Other downtown projects call for a new parking lot, way-finding signs and improvements to Shamrock Alley, which is an outdoor space used for community events.
The town also used its "stellar" status to help line up grant funding to expand Shamrock Estates, a senior housing complex.
A developer has proposed a $1.5 million project that calls for building a clubhouse and five duplexes at the complex, doubling its number of housing units. The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority has agreed to provide a $750,000 grant for the project, which is being planned by Nappanee-based Country Village Development.
Kitchen said a multi-million dollar inn proposed at Potato Creek Park would complement the plan for a trail linking the park with the town. A water line would be needed for the inn, and the trail could run alongside it. But even if the inn project doesn't advance, the town still plans to find funding for the trail.
(This story originally written by Ted Booker, Staff Reporter with the South Bend Tribune and published on March 17, 2017. Follow the link for the original story as it appeared in the South Bend Tribune. http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/local/indiana-s-stellar-program-gives-north-liberty-a-makeover/article_65c44938-a06e-586e-8e6c-d489389f9534.html )