Millions in funding sought for projects in Clark, Champaign counties

Several entities are making a pitch for capital funding for seven separate projects in Clark and Champaign Counties, including $3 million for improvements along a section of South Limestone Street in Springfield and $4 million for a countywide 911 dispatch system.

The Dayton Development Coalition has opened the public comment period for submissions to the Priority Development Advocacy Committee process. Residents can comment on the projects until 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14. The process prioritizes which projects to push for as a region when government funding sources or grants become available.

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Proposed projects also include requests for money to renovate the Gloria Theatre in downtown Urbana and an expansion of Clark State’s Performing Arts Center.

Once the public comment period is completed, the projects will be reviewed and ranked by panels in areas including defense, economic development, hospitals and health care, and quality of life. A full PDAC committee, made up of 25 local officials from business, education and local government, will complete a final review of the projects and make recommendations in the spring, according to information from the Dayton Development Coalition.

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The process is expected to be completed in time for an annual trip in which local government and economic development officials fly to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers. That trip is tentatively scheduled for April next year, according to information from the DDC. In all, seven projects were submitted by various entities in Clark and Champaign Counties.

The largest request came from Clark County, which is seeking about $6 million to build a new multi-purpose building at the Clark County Fairgrounds. In its submission, the county argued the project would be beneficial because the fairgrounds is hosting more events than ever before, and a new multipurpose facility would allow the site to host larger events and compete with other venues that have more modern facilities.

“The county believes that encouraging development at the fairgrounds will spur other economic development in that area, specifically hotels and restaurants, the county’s submission states. “The county has purchased an adjacent property in hopes that either a hotel or restaurant would be constructed on that site.”

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Jennifer Hutchinson, Clark County administrator, said a request for $4 million for a countywide 911 dispatch center is the biggest priority, although both county projects are identified in the county’s strategic plan.

The dispatch center would allow the city and county to combine 911 services, which are now operated separately.

She said the county also requested funding for both projects last year as well although neither project received funding. Last year, a separate project for funding for a new parking garage in downtown Springfield was a bigger priority, and that project is moving ahead next year.

“That kind of took center stage,” Hutchinson of the roughly $7 million garage project.

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The city of Springfield is also seeking $3 million for a project to make improvements at the intersection of South Limestone Street and Leffel Lane, including adding landscaping to infield areas of the I-70 interchange with South Limestone Street.

The city’s application states the improvements are needed to improve safety and traffic congestion issues at the intersection.

Other projects include:

• A request from Clark State Community College for $4 million to add about 8,000 useable square feet at the Performing Arts Center complex and connecting the PAC and the Hollenbeck Bayley Conference Center. Clark State’s application argues the PAC brings events to downtown Springfield, providing economic benefits for hotels, restaurants and other local businesses.

• A request from Clark State for $5 million to create a Center for Workforce Development at the Brinkman Education Center in downtown Springfield. The project would renovate the Brinkman Center and provide training and meeting space to better serve area employers.

• A request for $862,500 for renovations at the Springfield Museum of Art, including an expanded special event banquet space, a wheelchair-accessible studio art classroom and more community gallery space.

• A request from the GranWorks Foundation, Inc. in Urbana for improvements to the Gloria Theatre in downtown Urbana. The funding would cover new construction costs to expand the building, upgrade theatrical and live event capabilities. The theater is the only movie theatre and performing arts center in Champaign county according to the application.

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