WARSAW — Crowdfunding, a relatively new buzzword that refers to finding project money from the private sector and leveraging those funds with grant dollars to underwrite community-focused beatification projects, appears to have fueled a second Warsaw spruce-up initiative in as many two years.
In late 2017, Warsaw unveiled what is commonly known as The Alley, which was the conversion of a conventional alley bordering City Hall and Three Crowns Coffee west of Buffalo Street into a public meeting space complete with custom paving, artwork and dining tables.
According to Rob Parker, president of the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce, the project was paid for by coupling private donations with a matching grant, the same fundraising technique that will be used to renovate the southeast corner of the Kosciusko County courthouse lawn.
“Their goal was $50,000 in order to receive a $50,000 matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority,” said Parker, referring to last year’s alley project. “Well, not only did they meet their goal, they exceeded it. With the support of 144 donors, $58,795 in funds raised and $50,000 in matching funds, by the end of last summer Warsaw had a beautiful new public space to enjoy.”
Earlier this month, a local landscaping contractor was awarded a bid of $64,900 to transform the southeast corner of the county courthouse lawn using the same type of funding technique.
County Administrator Marsha McSherry said the idea for the courthouse lawn project stemmed from the success of the alley project.
“This kind of grew out of that and the money for this just kind of grew out of Patronicity,” she said, referring to a fundraising organization that marries locally-raised funds with grant dollars.
According to Parker, the Warsaw Community Development Corporation is also behind the initiative.
“WCDC is committed to making investments into downtown Warsaw,” said Parker. “We met with the county to evaluate projects that would improve the courthouse plaza. Through our partnership with OCRA (Office of Community and Rural Affairs) and Patronicity, we determined to raise $30,000 in order to receive a $30,000 matching grant from Patronicity.”
Parker said raising local private monies for such projects in order to acquire matching grant dollars gives members of the local community literal buy-in to such projects.
“We believe this crowdsourced funding mechanism is a great way for communities to create places for people to gather and linger, and we are very proud to have been able to do this twice in Warsaw,” Parker said.
That corner is also often the center of activities for First Fridays events.
Parker added that “functionally, the improvement to the courthouse lawn will allow for people to gather and will be a central location for downtown events, especially First Fridays. Our goal will be to create a space that will enhance the courthouse and create a space that is significant for our residents and visitors.”
The corner will be grounded by stamped concrete or pavers and will include five to seven picnic tables, a wall that doubles as a place to sit and bright landscaping, according to information on Patronicity’s website.
According to McSherry, a meeting is scheduled soon with the contractor that was awarded the bid and she added that hopes are for the project to be completed by May 15.