Craig Mauger, Courier-Times News Editor

Four buildings and four homes in the downtown area will get a facelift as a result of a $2.7 million grant announced on Wednesday.

Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman announced that the city will receive the grant as part of the state's Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Some of the money will go to revamping an entire section of downtown New Castle, starting at 14th and Broad streets and moving four buildings to the east.

Jeana Davis, the director of New Castle's Economic Development Directorate, said the old J.C. Penney building - the second from the intersection - will be demolished. She said a parking area and public gathering place will be put in its place.

The grant will allow for the building at 14th and Broad streets and the one directly to the north of it to be remodeled on the outside. On the inside, loft apartments will be installed on the upstairs floors of the buildings.

The same updates will occur for the two buildings to the east of the old J.C. Penney building, according to the plans.

The grant will not cover the cost of renovating the interior of the first floor of each building. However, a city release says those areas
will become more marketable because of the improvements.

"We hope to fill the spaces below with retail, offices or restaurants," Davis said in the release.

According to the release, the upgraded properties will be marketed to low-income renters looking to become homeowners and others with household sizes of three or more.

The New Castle Redevelopment Commission will obtain the options on the downtown buildings. The commission will be reimbursed through the grant.

Any money made on the properties will go back into the downtown area.

On Wednesday, Davis said the upgraded downtown area will be called the Maxwell Commons.

She said previous efforts to improve downtown helped the city gain leverage on getting the grant.

The process of getting the grant meant long hours for Davis, who became the director of the EDD after the city split from the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp. just months ago.

"For me, it's affirmation that I'm where I'm supposed to be," Davis said of the grant award.

The city has 18 months to complete the upgrades on the four buildings and four homes, Davis said. The grant stays open for three years.

In the city's press release, Davis thanked a long list of individuals and organizations who made the grant possible.

"A lot of hard work and dedication went into the writing of this grant," Davis said in the release. "New Castle deserves this and so much more."

New Castle was one of 21 communities and community organizations selected to receive funds through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Other cities receiving funds were Muncie, which received $1.9 million and Hartford City, which received $1.5 million.

"We have found communities struggling with blight and foreclosure," Skillman said in the release that announced the grants. "And with this assistance communities and non-profits can reverse the downward spiral or even stop it before it starts."
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