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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, August 08, 2017 11:24 am

Verbatim: Renovation of historic theater, new trail coming to northeast Indiana

The Journal Gazette

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. issued this news release today:

INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 8, 2017) -- The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) has approved Regional Cities Initiative funding to support the continued revitalization of Eagles Theatre in downtown Wabash and the construction of the Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail in Ligonier.

"As Indiana's unemployment rate keeps dropping, it is important that we continue our focus on attracting talent to our state," said IEDC President Elaine Bedel. "The Indiana Regional Cities Initiative is helping transform communities across the state, creating nationally-recognized destinations to live, work and play. The transformational renovation of Eagles Theatre and the construction of the Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail will enhance the region's arts, culture and recreation, supporting northeast Indiana's vision of attaining one million Hoosiers residents by 2020."


Originally built in 1906, the Eagles Theatre, located at 106 W. Market St. in Wabash, first opened as a touring spot for vaudeville productions and transitioned to a movie theatre that provided entertainment and world and national news through the use of news reels, especially during World War II. Today, the theatre is used to show movies and live events.

This project would increase the theatre’s lobby space, open up the backstage to better accommodate live acts and re-open the second balcony to add two suites, increasing the theatre’s capacity from 440 patrons to 550. Improvements will be made to the basement that include reviving the dressing rooms and storage areas, supporting live events and adding a 45-seat theater featuring state-of-the-art sound. The basement improvements will also include updating three rooms for music lessons, giving students in the region additional opportunities to take music, voice and instrument lessons. Plans also include restoring the hand-painted ceilings and central dome of the grand ballroom on the fourth floor into a premier space to host events, which could seat up to 200 people.

This project will allow the theatre to expand its live program offerings, drawing visitors from around the region. Renovations of the historic building, which will continue to support the region’s arts and culture organizations, are expected to begin in late 2017 and be completed in 2019.

Total Project Investment: $4.98 million

State funding: $976,636

(Conditional upon the RDA submitting a request for distribution of funds for the project)

“We are thrilled to receive this funding. This project will greatly enhance the quality of place initiatives outlined through the Road to One Million plan. We applaud the Indiana Economic Development Corporation for investing in the Regional Cities initiative,” said Tod Minnich, chief executive officer of the Honeywell Foundation.


The Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail in Ligonier will connect the downtown business district with parks and historical sites. The five-mile trail loop will incorporate the existing riverwalk trail along the Elkhart River and will include informational and educational signage, benches, bike racks and other trail amenities. With 100 percent of Ligonier's residents within a half-mile of the Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail, the trail can be utilized by employees wanting to bicycle or walk to work and for shoppers and travelers to frequent downtown establishments, increasing connectivity and wellness in the region.

The trail will eventually connect to the Syracuse-Wawasee Trail, the Noble and Fishing Line Trails and the Pumpkinvine Trail, expanding Northeast Indiana's vast regional trail network.

Total Project Investment: $1.27 million

State funding: $248,920

(Conditional upon the RDA submitting a request for funds prior to the commencement date for each phase of the project)

"The city of Ligonier and everyone on the Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail team is delighted to receive this funding! We wish to thank the Noble County Economic Development Corporation and the staff at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership for their collaborative efforts and assistance in the preparation of our application," said Liognier Mayor Patty Fisel. "The Indiana Economic Development Corporation's investment in the Road to One Million plan has demonstrated to be a success. The eleven counties that make up the Northeast region will see great benefit in the enhancement of places initiative because of the careful planning and direction by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership board of directors. No project is a solo endeavor; the benefits attained and the connections forged by this incredible trail project will be more far-reaching than we can imagine at this time. Thank you to all who have worked diligently with Ligonier to support the Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail project."

Regional Cities Initiative in Northeast Indiana:

These projects were recommended for funding by the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) and are part of the region's Road to One Million plan, which outlines a short-term goal of 38 regional development projects in 11 counties totaling $400 million in quality of place investments, as well as a vision for more than 70 projects and $1.5 billion in public and private investment over the next 10 years. Through this long-term regional development planning, the 11-county region aims to attain one million residents by 2031.

Northeast Indiana was one of three Indiana regions selected to receive state funding through the Regional Cities Initiative, which will allocate a total of $126 million toward 100 quality of place projects totaling more than $2 billion in combined state, local and private investment in order to retain and attract top talent to the Hoosier state.