The Washington Times-Herald

April 23, 2014

Shuttered theater part of push to improve quality of life

By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — The Daviess County Economic Development Foundation wants to see the quality of life improve in the area and getting the closed down Indiana Theater back open and operating is one part of their plan.

The foundation has announced a fundraising effort in hopes of acting as a catalyst for the reopening of the theater and two other projects. "We believe quality of life is an important part of economic development," said Ron Arnold with the Daviess County Economic Development Foundation. "We feel it is key to provide a community that is enjoyable for the existing workforce and to attract new workers in the future."

The three-part project will begin with assisting in the rehabilitation of the Indiana Theater, helping develop a walking path from downtown to the Eastside Park, and dealing with distressed and empty properties in the downtown area. "We have a good list of things to draw people and their interest," said Arnold. "These are things people can get behind and support."

With the Indiana Theater the Foundation plans to work with a private developer and assist in improving the outside appearance of the closed down building. The work includes improving the sign and restoring the glass windows on the front of the building. The Foundation will also help provide gap financing to refurbish the inside of the the theater and to purchase digital projects. If successful the organization would provide a low interest loan to the new owner.

"The theater is something the community really is concerned about," said Arnold. "It needs a lot of work, but we believe people will want to step up and help."

The second project will be the development of a walking path that could be done in phases. It would run from Main Street to Washington High School, out Bedford Road to the hospital and eventually lead to the East Side Park. The work would include sidewalk improvements, lighting, and additional parking.

The third effort will deal with the distressed property in the downtown area. That will consist of a feasibility study of potential uses of dilapidated and unoccupied spaces, purchase and reuse projects in the designated areas. "How things look is important," said Arnold. "We need to get them to look right in order to get the most benefit. We are going to look at any place that's empty and try to figure out what is the best use of that space."

The downtown initiative will look at places like the Old Tin Lantern building, the old Eagles Lodge and a lot of the second floor loft space that is underutilized.

The combined projects could require as much as a $500,000 to complete. "This would be a combination of funds," said Arnold. "Some of it would come from private sources, some public donations and we will be seeking grants for some of it. We are serving as the catalyst to get it started."

Leaders believe that the projects to improve the community will have a positive impact on quality of life and make the area more attractive to potential employers. "We have done a study that found for workforce quality of life is a huge issue," said Arnold. "These are really good projects the community can support and we would like to see how many of them we can get completed in time for the city's bicentennial in 2016."

The Washington Times Herald is partnering with the Economic Development Foundation on the project. "We think this is a very worthwhile effort," said Times Herald Editor Melody Brunson. "We're excited to be a part of this and to support it."

Natalie Smith, project manager for the Daviess County Economic Development Foundation, Inc., is spearheading the effort. People wanting to support the initiative with either time or a monetary donation can contact her at the Daviess County Economic Foundation Office at 219 E. Main St. in Washington or by calling 812-254-1500.