Simply stellar


President Brian Casey received a phone call Monday afternoon from Sue Murray, mayor of Greencastle.

"Hi," Murray said.

"Hi, Sue," Casey responded. After a distinct pause he finally asked, "How are you?"

Her response: "Stellar."

"Let the record state, for the first time in DePauw University history, the president of DePauw ran to City Hall," Casey said at Thursday's announcement in the Great Hall of the Green Center for Performing Arts.

It was announced Monday that the city of Greencastle, along with North Vernon, Ind., will be one of two pilot recipients of the Stellar Communities Grant. Funding for the grant will come from federal funds directed to the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Agency and the State Revolving Fund.

A total of $31 million will be divided between the two cities. The amount allocated to Greencastle has yet to be announced. Funds will be allocated with the expectation that the money be spent and plans completed within three years. Although a tentative timeline has been scheduled, projects cannot be initiated until the funds are officially transferred. According to Sue Murray, mayor of Greencastle, this date is also still unknown.

Plans for the city are generally environmental. One such proposal will involve facade renovation of the downtown square area. Paths connecting the area and DePauw's campus will be landscaped, and lighting will be installed. A parking garage will be added to the square. A WiFi bubble will be placed over the square, and additional signage will better direct visitors to spaces on the DePauw campus and Greencastle community.

Ideally, this renovation will allow for the creation of second-floor loft apartments, as well as additional commercial space.

"I see this as a vibrant place where people will say ‘I can't wait until a space opens up there so I can start a business,'" Murray said.

There are additional plans to put a Wellness Center on the square. Although a Wellness Center exists in town, it is far from the square. Murray said she and representatives of the DePauw campus feel that students "are not comfortable" using the DePauw Wellness Center services. With a location in town, students would ideally feel more comfortable seeking medical attention.

Additionally, this center could be a potential emergency care center, a facility that would take some of the burden from the Putnam County Hospital. The Wellness Center may not be fully functioning until the second year of the plan, Murray said.

A third plan involves creating a relationship with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Murray said the orchestra already does extensive outreach in the Indianapolis Public School System. In Greencastle, the orchestra would plan to perform in the community and interact with the DePauw School of Music.

This development for the community was commemorated in a Thursday afternoon ceremony in the Great Hall of the Green Center for the Performing Arts. Community members and area business leaders joined professors, students and more than 20 Indiana state officials for the event. Posters in the rotunda explained the project's goals and ideals. Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, a Republican, opened the event after being introduced by her deputy chief of staff, David Terrell.

Skillman said although there were 42 applications and 12 eventual finalists, "it was very clear that there were two Stellar Communities."

Skillman said that this grant will substantially impact Greencastle and the surrounding region.

"We know that Greencastle will now become an even greater economic engine for the entire region," she said. "I hope this will be a big step forward for our entire state."

Overall, Casey stressed the importance of this grant for both Greencastle and DePauw.

"Lieutenant Governor, you have allowed us to imagine the next great college town, one for Indiana," he said. "One right here in Greencastle."

Murray noted the importance of this grant in accelerating changes to the community. Without the Stellar Communities funding, she said, this three-year plan would have been a 25-year plan with a five percent chance of success.

As for the long-term effects of the grant, Murray said the possibilities will be extensive.

"People will see that the state has invested an unprecedented amount of money in our small community. They've given us the opportunity to make special things happen, and when special things happen, other people want to be a part of them," she said.

"What we've proposed will bring investment to community, and we can only begin to envision the possibilities. There are many possibilities we can't begin to dream about yet." 

A note on renderings:

Renderings of the Stellar Communities plan are not necessarily what plans will look like. They are drawings by Brenner Design intended to show one way the program could be implemented. The drawings were provided to The DePauw by the City of Greencastle and DePauw University Publications.