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March 14, 2013

Delphi gets stellar

The state awarded Delphi part of a $20 million grant last year through the Stellar Communities program, which was established to help fund development projects in smaller communities. While final amounts are still being determined, Delphi is preparing by drafting a series of plans to address its downtown area, infrastructure and other projects.

Check out a picture of the various projects here

Delphi Mayor Randy Strasser spoke on the city’s Stellar grant at the State of the City, County and Towns addresses in Delphi Monday.

“As we continue on with our Stellar Communities program, one of the things we’re going to be doing in the next year is educating everyone on what Stellar is going to be brining to the community,” Strasser said.

Kevin Kologinsky, community development director for Delphi, said he was thankful for the state government’s assistance.

“I think our government takes all kinds of tax money and we’re just like baby birds chirping for a worm, trying to get some of it back,” Kologinsky said with a laugh. “In the good old days, cities used to raise their own taxes and do their own thing.”

One of the projects the city is planning to pursue in the next couple months entails rehabilitating owner-occupied homes throughout the city.

According to the city of Delphi’s website, many of the homes to be restored date back to the 1800s. By restoring them, the city hopes to maintain their historic value while improving their aesthetics.

Kologinsky said improvements to houses will include replacing roofs, windows, porches, siding and gutters along with putting in insulation and installing heating and air conditioning systems.

“We’re hoping the city looks prettier and inspires others to clean up their properties,” Kologinsky said.

Another project the city is planning to take on this summer is to create a pedestrian trail accompanying the vehicular connection leading from the Hoosier Heartland Highway. The trail will go through the downtown area to the city’s Canal Center.

“It becomes kind of a history trail,” Kologinsky said, adding that it will pass by several historic landmarks through the city, like the downtown area, the courthouse and opera house before concluding at the historic Canal Center.

Kologinsky said the entrance of the trail into the city will consist of an overhead concrete viaduct.

“It will be like a welcome portal to the city,” Kologinsky said, adding that the city intends to garden the banks on the sides of the viaduct, hang banners and install old-style light posts.

Kologinsky said the trail, which is currently in the design stage, will be eight feet wide and made with pavers.

Also under the motive of enhancing pedestrians’ experience throughout the city is a downtown streetscape project, in which new streetlights, sidewalks, curbs, pavement, brick paver accents and street furniture will be installed along six blocks of the downtown area. The city is currently working on a design for this project and preparing to find out what environmental work needs to be done.

Currently in the design phase is a project aiming to convert vacant upper floors of downtown buildings into loft apartments. The city of Delphi’s website states residents of these lofts would be conveniently located near area services, as one building the city is looking to do this in is within a half block of the courthouse square and a half block from a downtown grocery store.

Strasser said working toward the rehabilitation of the community was something very important to him.

“My main objective when working with the city council and business people has actually been in the rebuilding of the community,” Strasser said.

According to the city’s website, Delphi has spent years trying to restore downtown building facades but has lacked the funds to do so. With last year’s awarding of the Stellar Communities, grant, that will no longer be the case. The city’s website goes on to state there are around 44 downtown buildings eligible for funding.

Kologinsky said architects started working with business owners Monday to come up with plans on what they want to pursue for their buildings’ exteriors. He said the plans range from replacing windows or awnings to replacing entire storefronts.

Delphi is also looking to restore its historic opera house. With the restoration of the building’s facade, roof and three ground-level retail bays already completed, the city is also planning to double the size of the 10,800 square foot structure, ultimately turning it into a 200-seat theater and gathering space with banquet facilities, dressing rooms and multipurpose areas.

Kologinsky said the opera house project along with several others come from a desire to preserve the city’s historic significance.

“There is something intangible about a community with a historic feel that every one loves,” Kologinsky said. “That’s what we’re trying to bring back. We would have been passed by the Hoosier Heartland bypass unless we could create a reason to come here and the reason is going to be heritage tourism.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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