Van Wert revitalization effort seeks to transform downtown area
VAN WERT, Ohio (Fort Wayne’s NBC) - An ambitious downtown revitalization plan is unfolding in this Ohio community. More than 50 older buildings that are in various states of decay are slated to be restored at a price tag approaching $100-million in the core of Van Wert Ohio. The undertaking, called Van Wert Forward, is being spearheaded by the Van Wert County Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to giving the small community a vibrant downtown. Right now, many buildings in the heart of the city are in poor shape.
“We lost a major building, our largest building downtown a year and a half ago, and so, if we didn’t take action, we were going to be seeing that happen over and over again, to the point where our downtown... just basically rots and goes away,” said Seth Baker, the CEO of the Van Wert County Foundation.
The foundation is planning to put up close to $20-million of its own money and combine that with historic and New Market tax credits and get private investor cash to advance the revitalization effort. Eric Doden, who is a candidate in the 2024 Indiana governor’s race, is serving as a consultant on the Van Wert project. He says what’s being done in the Ohio community could translate to helping small towns in the Hoosier state too.
“We have in Indiana alone about two million people that live in towns 30,000 or less, and so you have a significant portion of your population living in small towns and they want to see their towns revitalized,” Doden said.
Phase one of Van Wert Forward involves rehabbing 11 properties that will eventually host restaurants, shops, offices and apartments.
That opening phase is expected to be finished in late 2022 or early 2023.
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