Hope's Community Center performed a valuable service by demolishing collapsing structures on the town square last week.
An even greater service is envisioned in the future — a redevelopment project that not only could strengthen the center’s effort in providing human services to Hope-area residents, such as child care, but serve as a catalyst for economic development in the small town.
Officials of the center have taken initial steps to develop the property where the razed buildings had become an eyesore.
In their place, members of the community center’s board of directors hope to erect structures with external appearances akin to their existing neighbors that could be used for a variety of purposes.
Front and center in the planning for the area is a complex that could attract artisans to the area but also provide spaces for community events and productions.
For a town such as Hope with a population of just more than 2,000 — especially considering its limited financial resources — the project is extremely ambitious. Estimated construction costs on the proposed buildings are in the $800,000 to
$1 million range.
However, supporters of the effort have cause for measured optimism.
The center was able to obtain the properties for a good price — $12,000 — when the owner who had purchased the lots and buildings sight-unseen at a tax sale two years ago realized the enormity of undertaking a rehabilitation effort himself.
The center also was able to tap into Hope’s share of the economic development income tax and a grant from the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County to pay for the demolition. The Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District also agreed to waive tipping fees when demolition materials were taken to the landfill.
The center itself serves as another advantage. Just the fact that it has been able to provide such services as day care, preschool, before- and after-school care, a food pantry, a senior center and a summer camp in a community the size of Hope, such an initiative attests to the creativity and enterprise that has been applied to finding the support for those programs.
Center officials, led by director Julie
Begin, have tapped into a number of sources in the public and private sectors to sustain their earlier efforts and intend to pursue that course of action in getting the needed funds for the building projects. One potential source is the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provides rural development grants for communities such as Hope.
Hope supporters are realistic about the future, avoiding any comparisons of their plans to well-established tourist destinations such as Brown County.
However, they see a revitalized Hope town square as a magnet for bringing more visitors to the area. Already the community has experienced some success with endeavors such as the One Room Schoolhouse and the annual Hope Heritage Days. Trademark restaurants and stores also have drawn customers from outside Bartholomew County.
This latest undertaking is the next step in revitalizing the town that still advertises itself as “surprising.”