New Vision

180 Alliance makes pitch for READI funds

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Building new homes. Upgrading neighborhood parks. Easier public access to Sugar Creek. Developing a nature park.

The proposed projects are part of a new vision to improve quality of life in west central Indiana through a $500 million state initiative.

The Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, known as READI, will provide funding to help attract talent and economic development to Hoosier communities.

A group of 17 locally-formed regions is competing for up to $50 million to carry out their plans.

Montgomery County joined forces with Boone, Hendricks, Johnson, Morgan and Putnam counties to form the 180 Alliance.

The plan lays out strategies for improving quality of life in the downtowns, providing more outdoor recreation opportunities and creating arts and culture programs.

Plans are also laid out for infrastructure improvements and leveraging the region’s colleges to train the workforce.

READI funding would contribute to a total $885 million investment across the region.

“We simply must work around the same table,” Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton said, describing the importance of collaborating with other communities in the area to promote growth. “And I can assure you today that they are truly committed to doing the same.”

Barton helped make the region’s case for funding on Friday during a presentation at Dallara IndyCar Factory in Speedway. He was joined by DePauw University President Dr. Lori White and Boone County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Molly Whitehead.

The six-county region — which includes the fast-growing Boone County town of Whitestown — contributed to nearly a quarter of Indiana’s growth over the past decade, according to census data cited in the report.

The region added 56,000 people over the past 10 years, the report says.

Stakeholders say the projects will help grow the region’s talent but acknowledge they need to get the improvements in place now while the population growth is easier to manage.

Crawfordsville and Montgomery County want to use READI funds to help fund the development of Western Estates, a proposed 200-unit housing subdivision.

The project is being overseen by the nonprofit Crawfordsville Community Development Corp., which the city formed to speed up the building process for housing additions.

Funds would also be used for projects to makeover Lincoln and Northside parks. It would be the second phase of the city’s Neighborhood Parks Initiative, which led to the redesign of Kathleen J. Steele Park earlier this year.

The anonymous donor who gave the money for the Steele project is also helping fund improvements to the two other parks. The money was donated through the Montgomery County Community Foundation.

The city is also seeking funds to help convert a former brick manufacturing site on the south edge of the Crawfordsville Commerce Park into the Brickyard Nature Park.

Another portion of the funding would be used to upgrade three more Sugar Creek public access sites, forming the Sugar Creek Water Trail.

The upgrades are planned at the Darlington Covered Bridge, the Old Coke Plant and Bachner Nature Preserve.

Nonprofit Friends of Sugar Creek recently partnered with the city to improve the access site at Rock River Ridge.

The state is scheduled to award funding to the selected regions this month. The alliance’s full plan can be viewed at iedc.in.gov/program/indiana-readi/regions.

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