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Preservation meeting well attended

By KEVIN GREEN - kgreen@thecouriertimes.com

Several local residents and business owners attended a meeting Tuesday in the Henry County Arts Center designed to share information and success stories about preserving the buildings in New Castle’s downtown historic district.

The event was organized and hosted by New Castle City Council member Aaron Dicken.

Dicken said it is his belief the city, working with various community partners, should be leading the effort to provide support to building owners in the historic district, which roughly includes the area from Vine Street to Indiana Avenue and from 11th to 15th streets.

“I think we’re all here because we agree that there’s a lot of potential in our downtown, but that comes with challenges,” Dicken said to those in attendance. “I’m really hoping to set a new tone for historic preservation.”

Dicken then introduced a series of guest speakers who shared information about resources available for the preservation of historic buildings and about local recent success stories from people who have renovated buildings in the downtown area.

Those speakers included Jessie Russett from Indiana Landmarks, David Nantz representing the New Castle Historic Preservation Commission, Mary Shaw from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, David Copenhaver representing the New Castle Redevelopment Commission, Mike Broyles and Scott Frost of Rose City Partners LLC, and Matt and Sheila Tieken of Sheila’s Bakery.

Russett talked about various grant, loan and assistance programs available through Indiana Landmarks, which is the largest non-profit organization dedicated to historic preservation on a statewide basis in the country.

She also said there are three things that attract people to the historic downtown districts of any given community: A physically beautiful setting, opportunities for socializing, and openness to people from all walks of life.

Russett encouraged anyone with an interest in more information about the programs she discussed to call 1-800-450-4534.

Nantz talked about the duties and responsibilities of the New Castle Historic Preservation Commission and the process for obtaining a certificate of appropriateness for any work planned for the exterior of the buildings in the district. 

The preservation committee meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Monday of each month in council chambers on the second floor of the municipal building, 227 N. Main Street, New Castle. The meetings are open to the public.

Shaw shared information about help available through OCRA including its Historic Preservation Grant and its Main Street Revitalization programs. 

She said OCRA has plentiful funding through next year and encouraged those on hand to apply.

Additional information about the programs OCRA offers is available online at www.in.gov/ocra.

Copenhaver shared information about the New Castle Redevelopment Commission, what its primary functions are, how it is funded, and how it can help those parties interested in renovating or stabilizing buildings in the city’s downtown area.

The RDC’s best tool for historic preservation is its facade grant program, which makes funding up to $15,000 available for building owners looking to renovate the fronts of their buildings and/or repairing or replacing their roofs.

The New Castle RDC meets at 8 a.m. the fourth Wednesday of each month in council chambers. Their meetings are open to the public.

Broyles and Frost shared their experiences buying and renovating three buildings in the downtown area and indicated they are looking at doing the same with additional properties.

They credited the RDC’s facade grant program with making their efforts financially feasible.

Matt and Sheila Tieken, who own and operate Sheila’s Bakery at 1408 Broad Street, New Castle, also shared their experiences in renovating the ground floor of a building that dates back more than 100 years. They also updated the building’s facade and made other improvements.

Like Broyles and Frost, the Tieken’s said the RDC’s facade improvement grant program was beneficial in moving their project forward.

Corey Murphy, CEO and President of the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, also spoke briefly about that organization’s revolving loan program, which provides loans to business ventures that might be too risky for financing through more conventional channels.

Murphy said the EDC currently has $80,000 available.

Anyone with questions about that financing option may call the EDC office at 765-521-7402 or visit growinhenry.com.

New Castle Mayor Greg York also shared a word of thanks with Indiana Landmarks and the historic preservation commission for their efforts over the years, and praised the facade grant program administered by the city’s RDC.

“I appreciate everything you guys have done,” York said. “It’s paying off, and in the future it’s going to be very beneficial for all of our downtown.”

Dicken indicated he was pleased with the number of people in attendance and said he hoped the meeting would help facilitate collaboration between those interested in preserving the city’s historic buildings and those organizations who offer the resources to make that possible.

“It’s easy to say, especially as a young person, that nothing in this community is going to change,” Dicken said, “but that kind of thinking is counter-productive. I hope this meeting sparks new action that helps create a new renaissance downtown. This is our community and it’s up to us to do with it what we want to see take place.”