This illustration shows how the former Studebaker assembly plant along South Lafayette Boulevard could look after it is renovated into a hub for technology companies and related educational programs. The neighborhood around the building has been named the Renaissance District. Image provided
This illustration shows how the former Studebaker assembly plant along South Lafayette Boulevard could look after it is renovated into a hub for technology companies and related educational programs. The neighborhood around the building has been named the Renaissance District. Image provided
North-central Indiana was a big winner on Tuesday.

Gov. Mike Pence announced the region of St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marshall counties will receive a $42 million grant through the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative, a state-funded program designed to spur new developments that will improve quality of life and grow the population.

Two other regions — centered around Evansville and Fort Wayne — also were named on Tuesday as recipients of $42 million grants. Seven regions from throughout the state applied for the money.

"This is the state investing in our area," said Jeff Rea, president and CEO of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce. "We're going to show them they made a smart decision in picking north-central Indiana."

Leaders from businesses, nonprofit organizations and local government in St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marshall counties began working on the area's Regional Cities application more than a year ago. The group formed a coalition called Regional Cities of Northern Indiana to pursue the state funds.

That application, submitted to the state this past summer, lists 39 projects aimed at spurring more innovation, revitalizing downtowns and boosting the health of residents in the three-county area. If all of the projects are implemented, the total development would be worth more than $700 million.

The $42 million grant is intended to be leveraged and used to attract additional funding to pay for the projects.

According to the Regional Cities rules, at least 60 percent of each project's funding needs to come from private sources. The Regional Cities grant money can be used for up to 20 percent of a project's cost. Local governments or other private sources will be responsible for funding the remainder.

One of the marquee projects in Northern Indiana's application is the Innovation District at the southern end of downtown South Bend. The district includes Ignition Park and Union Station Technology Center, which is expanding across the railroad viaduct into a former Studebaker assembly plant known as Ivy Tower.

"This kind of initiative first brought people together, and that's where the success was," Union Station owner Kevin Smith said. "The secondary benefit was actually the money. With the money comes responsibility for leadership. It will challenge all our community leaders to take that and understand how to use it well. That's the fun thing — it makes us think beyond the day to day, and it makes us look into the future."

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