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With boost from the state, VU steps up efforts to revitalize riverfront

November 7, 2016 / With boost from the state, Vincennes University steps up efforts to revitalize riverfront

VINCENNES, Ind. - In another big step forward, Vincennes University received a $50,000 state grant in support of VU’s efforts to revitalize Kimmell Park and the Vincennes riverfront.

“Vincennes has a significant potential asset sitting right in its backyard - a riverfront along the legendary Wabash River. This grant, combined with support from our other partners, will help convert this natural resource into a community asset that will serve for many years into the future,” said Phil Rath, vice president for VU Financial Services and Government Relations.

“Communities throughout the world have discovered the tremendous impact of investments in riverfronts, both economic and social. This will be a game-changer for our community, too. We are grateful that the state has chosen to invest in Knox County, its resources, and its residents. It is a key building block in our efforts to retain future leaders and promote population growth by enhancing our quality of life,” Rath said.

Rath’s comments are in response to the recent announcement by Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb that the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) and the Indiana Office of Tourism Development (IOTD) awarded VU $50,000 for its quality of place initiative through the Place-Based Investment Fund (PBIF).

The grant will help fund Phase I of the Kimmell Park project that will widen the entrance to the park from its current 18-foot opening to a 100-foot dynamic entryway - revealing a panoramic view of the Wabash riverfront and the scenic and natural resources surrounding it. The entrance will include stone columns on both sides to further enhance the attractive nature of the entrance. It is designed to invite people of the community to enjoy a once hidden and underappreciated natural resource.

The project will help create a vital sense of place that will enhance downtown development, attract businesses, create a more desirable visitor environment, and provide a staging ground for hundreds of entertainment events enjoyed by visitors and residents.

“The Place-Based Investment Fund is an excellent partnership of multiple state agencies and communities working toward a shared goal of improving their quality of place,” said Lt. Governor Holcomb.

The PBIF, now in its fourth year, is a competitive matching grant program administered as a partnership between OCRA and IOTD. The grant program supports community and economic development projects across the state that promote quality of life, improve tourism experiences, and develop multi-purpose gathering places.

“I continue to be impressed by the quality of proposals we receive,” said Mark Newman, IOTD executive director. "The intent of this fund is to reward creativity and resourcefulness. The impact to quality of life and ultimately tourism will be great.”

“PBIF provides a two-fold benefit for the community, and the partnership between OCRA and IOTD brings our collective expertise to support their project,” said Bill Konyha, OCRA executive director. “We not only touch upon the tourism aspect but also assist rural communities to benefit from improving their quality of place.”

Located along the banks of the Wabash River, Kimmell Park in Vincennes was once a vibrant tourist attraction and destination, which originated in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. It earned listing among the National Register of Historic Places. Due to financial constraints, the City sought to partner with VU, a neighbor to the park, in an effort to bring back the local destination to its former glory. Vincennes University accepted the challenge, embarking on a $2.5 million project to transform the riverfront park through the addition of an amphitheater, green space, boat ramp, tables, benches, lighting, landscaping, trees, signage, and enhanced security. VU anticipates much of the work to be completed by next spring.

In addition to the state, Kimmell Park partners also include the Vincennes/Knox County Visitors and Tourism Bureau, the City of Vincennes, Old National Bank, the Knox County Community Foundation and German American Bank.

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