Community leaders are celebrating the award of a $25 million grant to improve the quality of life and place in Wayne County. 

The funds from Lilly Endowment Inc. were secured to help revitalize downtown Richmond and better connect it with the Earlham College campus on the city’s west side. 

According to the endowment’s Dec. 14 news release, the grant will provide partial support to restore historic buildings for commercial and residential uses; develop a multimodal pathway to connect downtown Richmond and the campus; and make improvements to Whitewater Gorge Park.

Earlham’s five-year implementation grant is one of six the foundation awarded to colleges and universities in Indiana. The grants total $145.8 million. 

Proposed projects were jointly envisioned by the institutions and local stakeholders to improve their communities. 

College and university leaders say a vibrant local community is increasingly important to their efforts to attract and retain faculty, staff and students, the release said.

Another winner is near Richmond. Ball State University in Muncie received $35 million toward revitalizing The Village, a commercial district adjacent to campus. 

Plans for Muncie include a performing arts center; owner-occupied residences; new market-rate apartments; a hotel; restaurants and other retail outlets; an innovation center that will connect university academic programs with local entrepreneurs and business professionals; an events plaza; and an arts and culture trail.

Additional recipients: 

  • Indiana State University (Terre Haute): $5.8 million to support early childhood education and child care in six counties
  • Purdue University (West Lafayette): $25 million to enhance quality of life in several counties by improving early childhood education and child care as well as expansion of a rideshare program; improvements to the White River trail; and expanding/enhancing Purdue University Airport.
  • Taylor University (Upland): $30 million toward a comprehensive strategy to build/improve assets along a one-mile corridor connecting the campus to downtown Upland
  • Wabash College (Crawfordsville): $25 million to help support strategic engagement with nonprofit organizations in Montgomery County and capital projects to improve quality of life in the community, especially for its growing Latino population. 

In the first phase of the initiative, all 35 eligible Indiana colleges and universities submitted planning proposals and received planning grants. 

The grants, which totaled $9,660,381, provided time and resources for colleges and universities to conduct comprehensive assessment and planning activities in close collaboration with organizations in their local communities. 

Many convened meetings with a diverse cross section of community stakeholders, conducted market assessments, identified prospective sites for redevelopment, researched national best practices, visited other campuses and explored financing options for potential projects, among other planning activities.

“In designing their proposed projects, it was evident that these colleges and universities engaged a wide-ranging group of community stakeholders to imagine and develop creative solutions to pressing campus and community needs,” said Jennett M. Hill, endowment president, in the release. “The institutions submitted proposals that revealed robust collaborative efforts reflective of the institutions’ willingness to learn from not only campus colleagues but from local residents and businesses to help shape projects with promising potential to enhance the quality of life on their campuses and in their local communities.”

The Indianapolis-based private foundation was created in 1937 by the Lilly family through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. The endowment supports community development, education and religion. 

Read more about plans for the grant in future Western Wayne News editions.

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A version of this article appeared in the December 20 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.