Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton distributed the following press release Tuesday. It discusses changes to some elements of the Stellar project. Key points include moving the Fusion 54 property downtown instead of at Washington and Franklin Streets to better utilize funding, using the latter property for trailhead parking and greenspace and potentially channeling some of the saved money into the development of Pike Place pocket park. The full release from the mayor follows:
We have been working very hard to turn our winning Stellar Communities proposal into reality. Much work went into creating each of our proposals and our vision continuously evolved over the years. We were awarded Stellar status based on our plans for addressing the key challenges facing this community. Our plan remains solid but I strongly believe all good plans should be subjected to ongoing evaluation and adjusted, if needed, in response to changing conditions. Ultimately, we must keep our eye on the goal of addressing our challenges in a manner that creates transformative change and furthers positive development.
After careful consideration we have decided to make significant changes in our approach to Fusion 54. Let me begin by saying we are firmly committed to the concept of Fusion 54 and it will become a reality within the next year. It is critical that we “fuse” together as many of our growth entities as possible to create synergy and take cooperation to a new level.
The concept is to bring together our economic development team, Chamber of Commerce, Crawfordsville Main Street, The Montgomery County Leadership Academy’s volunteer program, Wabash College’s Center for Innovation, Business & Entrepreneurship as well as co-working space for entrepreneurs and the Montgomery County Visitors’ Bureau.
Original plans called for the construction of a new building at South Washington and Franklin Streets. An additional goal was to create ample parking serving as a trailhead park for the Big Four Trail that will replace the east-west rail line in the next few years.
Two significant issues surfaced as we worked through the design phase. First, cost estimates for constructing this facility have far exceeded our original vision. We had planned on total costs near $4 million with half coming from grant funding. Current estimates place potential cost near $6 million for a new facility that will serve the intended purpose. This must be balanced with the fact that the level of grant funding does not increase, leaving a much larger portion to local funding. We have worked to reduce potential cost but quickly find ourselves eroding functionality and the facility’s ability to serve its intended purpose. We will also be at the mercy of a bidding market that is less than ideal for new construction.
Secondly, our intent has been to use federal funds on this project and the regulations associated with those funds substantially increase cost. These regulations also require us to modify the building’s use and programming in a manner that is forcing us away from the intended function. Community Development Block Grant funds can only be used for public use spaces such as community centers. Although our entire building would be used by the public it was never intended to be a community center and it is clear that injecting those functions would destroy the desired effect of fusing together our growth entities. We are fortunate to already have a community center and great public meeting space in the library. It simply does not make sense to change the programing and duplicate services in order to obtain funding.
While working through these issues we explored alternative approaches that allow us to obtain the same results at a reduced cost and without the cumbersome requirements attached to block grant funding. After analyzing our options we have made the decision to shift our plans and modify an existing building to fit our needs. This can be done at a fraction of the cost while still creating the collaborative space that will move us forward. We are currently working through the process of acquiring a suitable facility in our downtown. I am very confident that after acquisition and renovation costs we can establish Fusion 54 and create the desired cooperation at approximately one-third the cost of constructing a new facility. This also allows us to program the building to meet the needs of this community rather than federal funding guidelines. I am also confident moving this project will help infuse even more activity into the heart of our downtown thus further strengthening the effect of Stellar.
We still plan to utilize the block grant funding awarded to us through Stellar to acquire the site at Washington and Franklin Streets. It can be developed into parking for the Big Four Trail as well as a trailhead park and greenspace. This will greatly enhance the neighborhood and improve the appeal along one of our major corridors. There is also a strong possibility some of the funding can be channeled into the development of Pike Place, allowing us to further enhance the amenities built into it. Fortunately, using the block grant funding for these purposes is much less cumbersome and more straightforward.
This change allows us to strengthen the impact of our Stellar program while reducing the amount of local funding needed. Fusion 54 will be located in the heart of our downtown, have more space than planned and can be programmed to meet our local needs at a fraction of the cost. We will also be gaining additional greenspace along US 231 and further enhancing Pike Place. Simply stated, we have refined our plan to get more impact for less money. Our Stellar partners and I are very excited about these changes and will provide updates as plans progress.