BEDFORD — Few people attended Tuesday’s public hearing on the next step in Bedford’s Stellar Communities project — revamping the former J.C. Penney building at 15th and J streets to house the StoneGate Arts & Education Center.
And none of those people spoke against the proposal.
The now-vacant building is to become the second structure dedicated to StoneGate. The other is the former Indiana Limestone Co. building at 405 I St., which houses classes offered by Ivy Tech Community College and Oakland City University Bedford.
Daniel Brazzell works with youth in the Limestone Robotics program, which conducts its sessions at the I Street facility. His first concern was about whether space would still be available for the program.
Trena Carter, grant administrator with Administrative Resources association, said the robotics’ teams space could remain the same. She added the final plans are not completed for the downtown building.
Later, Brazzell asked if other, similar ventures — such as a center for “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs — could be built into the plans.
Carter said that more planning meetings will be held after the state approves Bedford’s grant application. At that session, she said, ideas for specific programs could be raised.
Mayor Shawna Girgis said discussions continue about what classes and programs could be housed in the I Street facility and what might be housed downtown. One could be the home for offices, for example. But she said the plan is to use both buildings.
Others who spoke in favor of the grant application have ties to the city or the facility.
Gene McCracken, the center’s executive director, said he was “very excited about the opportunity.” Susan Hayes, the center’s program manager, submitted a one-page letter of support, noting it will “positively impact the downtown revitalization endeavors.” Others expressed confidence the downtown facility will help attract other education classes and boost downtown businesses.
Last week, Carter said the state has already set aside the money for Bedford’s project. But the city still must apply for the grant to fulfill regulatory requirements. That way, she said, state and federal regulators can track the money and the project, making sure the funds are being used for their intended purpose.
Tuesday’s public hearing was part of the grant application process.
Later Tuesday night, during the city council’s formal meeting, the council unanimously adopted a resolution to apply for the grant. All seven council members -- Adele Bowden-Purlee, Byron Buker, Judy Carlisle, Penny May, Michele Murphy, Patrick Robbins and Mark Scherschel -- attended Tuesday’s session.
The project will be paid for with the grant money and local funds. The city’s Stellar Communities plan lists the project’s budget at $2,149,531.
According to that plan, the city will request $1.5 million in Community Development Block Grant funds from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. That’s the money Carter said has been set aside for the project. The block grant program is funded by the federal government and administered by the state.
The original paperwork said difference will be made up with $649,531 in local money, including donations, the city’’s general fund and the Bedford Redevelopment Commission’s general fund.
The resolution adopted Tuesday notes that Bedford would commit local funds of up to $1,377,000, depending upon the availability of money from the Indiana Department of Transportation.