The grins on the two Noble County mayors’ faces stretched from ear to ear.
Both had just heard their recreational projects had won financial backing from the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority in the form of Regional Cities Initiative funding.
“It’s great for the region,” Kendallville Mayor Suzanne Handshoe said after thanking RDA board members April 11 afternoon at their packed meeting inside the Honeywell Center in Wabash.
Handshoe and the city of Kendallville were seeking Regional Cities funding for a $2.4 million expansion of the Kendallville Outdoor Recreation Complex on Allen Chapel Road that would include four youth-sized ball fields and other amenities.
The RDA board pledged $392,000 toward that project, as well as $171,500 to Noble Trails Inc.’s $1.02 million Fishing Line Trail that will run 12 miles from Rome City to Kendallville, once completed.
The city of Ligonier’s $1.3 million, five-mile Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail, which will connect the Elkhart Riverwalk to the downtown area, murals, historical landmarks and city parks in one big loop, received $248,920 in Regional Cities funding.
In all, six projects received funding commitments April 11 from the Northeast Indiana RDA board. All of the Northeast Indiana RDA’s funding commitments must be approved by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. before they become final.
The projects the RDA board voted on got slightly less than they requested.
When the projects first were presented to the RDA board in February, it lacked the money to approve all the requests, having already distributed more than $34 million of the $42 million in Regional Cities Initiative funding.
However, a previously approved project, the Landing along West Columbia Street in downtown Fort Wayne, last week was able to secure additional tax credits from the state of Indiana. That allowed the Northeast Indiana RDA board to reduce its pledge to The Landing from $6.9 million to $4.8 million.
The difference of $2.1 million, combined with the remaining Regional Cities funding, was almost enough to fulfill the seven projects considered.
Board members voted to give all of the funding requests on April 11 a 2 percent “haircut.”
“They all fit well in the regional development plan, the Road to One Million plan,” said RDA board member Jeff Turner of Metal Technologies Inc. in Auburn, referring to efforts to spur population growth through investment in quality-of-life projects.
The other projects that received Regional Cities funding Tuesday are:
• Riverfront Park Fort Wayne Phase 1, $5.2 million grant, $26.4 million total project cost;
• Eagles Theatre expansion in Wabash, $976,635 grant, $4.9 million total project cost; and
• The Russel and Evelyn Fahl Aquatics Facility in Whitley County, $844,078 grant, $4.3 million total project cost.