Jun 30, 2022

Nationally renowned READI grants program kicks off first of many transformative projects statewide

Indiana’s bold vision for quality of place development continues to garner attention, as the initial projects of the projected $10 billion in transformational community improvements begin.

The state’s nationally recognized Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI), administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corp., allocated $500 million to provide initial funding for shovel-ready projects that will improve quality of place and quality of opportunity in communities throughout the state. It also encouraged a new level of regional collaboration that brought mutual stakeholders together to decide for themselves the future of their communities.

Communities like Greensburg and surrounding Decatur County, where a $250,000 READI grant will make possible Inclusion Park, an inclusive playscape for residents and visitors with diverse physical and emotional abilities.



“The Inclusion Park comes from a deep need in our community for a truly inclusive playscape,” said Greensburg Mayor Joshua Marsh. “Coming together to pursue the READI grant for our region was an easy decision, and we are excited to see the IEDC’s interest in our innovative projects.”



Brendan Bridges, Greensburg’s former police chief and now a school resource officer in the community, knows firsthand the difference Inclusion Park will make for residents of the region. His son Jaxson—who is autistic, nonverbal and often reserved at traditional playgrounds—spent more than an hour and a half playing with other children at an inclusion park in another state. “The number one goal for this project is to make every person feel included,” Bridges said.  

The city of Greensburg and Decatur County, part of the Accelerate Rural Indiana region, is among the 17 regions representing all 92 Indiana counties that are taking advantage of the READI grant program, which is projected to yield an additional nearly $10 billion in public, private and non-profit dollars to enhance Indiana communities for current and future generations of Hoosiers.

Another is Peru, where a $2.75 million READI grant is allowing the community to move ahead with the transformation of an unused railroad property into badly needed housing and community amenities.

“The Peru Riverfront project is a critical piece of our talent attraction and retention strategy as we look to build a workforce pipeline for the jobs of today and the future,” said Steven Ray, Executive Director of the North Central Indiana Regional Planning Council.

“The READI funding has accelerated our implementation timeline to allow North Central to transform over the next four years instead of the next 20,” said Ray.

Collaborating with local leaders on transformative projects is what the READI program was built for. “This unprecedented initiative sets the national standard for grassroots regional collaboration and development,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers. “Here in Indiana, we are leaning into our communities to continue to grow our population and build a workforce to power the economy of tomorrow.”

The IEDC announced the funding for each region last December and then began working with regional leadership on project agreements. Based on that work, the IEDC is on track to release $200 million of READI grants by the end of July to projects and programs in 10 regions throughout the state. 

The finalized grant agreements with the first 12 regions will allow communities to move forward with 53 initiatives, including improvements to housing, trails, community amenities, childcare, health and wellness, tourism and workforce development.

Among the first projects to be supported by READI grants are:

  • A 12.9-mile extension of the Chessie Trail in LaPorte County that will connect the city of LaPorte to Michigan City and help residents, rail commuters and visitors access the South Shore Line. The $6.6 million READI grant will make possible a total project cost of $14.9 million.
  • Major infrastructure improvements in Peru to accommodate additional pedestrian and vehicle traffic generated by a new $16 million YMCA and 170-unit residential development. A READI grant of $2.75 million will close the gap on a $42.2 million total project cost.
  • A new six-story Hilton Garden Inn and adjoining 22,000-square-foot conference center in downtown Kokomo that will house the Kokomo Automotive Museum. A $5 million READI grant will support the $50 million project. Construction is expected to begin in early 2023.
  • Redevelopment of a declining retail mall in the midtown area of Columbus into a centralized hub for health, wellness and recreation known as NexusPark. The project, which will include an indoor sports complex, an outdoor park and trail space, and wellness-related services, is a joint effort of the city of Columbus and Columbus Regional Hospital. The state’s $6 million READI investment will facilitate the co-location of the city’s park administration offices and a community space boasting conference and multi-purpose rooms, low-cost fitness areas, child play and watch areas, and a teaching kitchen to serve residents. The total project cost is $91.9 million and construction is expected to be complete by September 2023.
  • Development of the McKinley-Whitely Live Learn Neighborhood in Muncie, an initiative of the city of Muncie and YMCA of Muncie to rebuild one of the city’s anchor neighborhoods. With $2.6 million from READI, the $40.6 million project will include a new YMCA by the end of 2024, the acquisition of blighted properties along with home-improvement assistance, and street and intersection enhancements to accommodate increased car and pedestrian traffic.
  • Construction of the Grant County Performing Arts Center in Gas City, a $19.3 million project aided by a $2.75 million READI grant that will create a new programming and events hub for schools in Grant County. The approximately 1,500-seat facility will also provide a regional entertainment venue, drawing quality entertainment and arts events to the region.
  • Development of the Greensburg/Decatur County Inclusion Park to provide inclusive spaces for kids, families and visitors. The Inclusion Park, to be developed within Rebekah Park on the east side of Greensburg, will include equipment made for children of all ages and abilities and support physical, social and emotional development. It will accommodate adult participation as well, making it a fun, welcoming experience for resident and visitor families alike. The $800,000 park project will be made possible thanks to a $250,000 READI grant.
  • Construction of the Indiana Sports Complex in Shelbyville’s Blue River Memorial Park to support health, sports, physical fitness and tourism in Shelby County. The indoor multi-purpose sports venue will be used for a wide variety of activities, including hard-court and turf sports, sports training, cooking demonstrations, trade shows and concerts. To be owned by the City of Shelbyville Parks and Recreation Department and operated by a private entity, the sports complex is expected to attract roughly 140,000 annual visitors, account for 26,000 annual hotel room nights and add $30 million per year to the regional economy once fully operational, according to a 2021 feasibility study. The $21 million project is made possible by a $2.5 million READI allocation. 
  • Expansion of the Kids Discovery Factory (KDF) in Batesville. KDF is a nonprofit community organization dedicated to advancing science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) education in southeast Indiana. The expansion will involve the renovation of a century-old, three-story building in Batesville and the development of a neighboring vacant lot. The $5 million KDF project, supported by a $1 million READI grant, is expected to attract 30,000 visitors annually, supporting students and families in the region and reigniting regional tourism.
  • Development of the 98-acre White River Park in Fishers at the northwest corner of 96th Street and Allisonville Road. The park is a key component of the central Indiana region’s White River Vision Plan, which is intended to enhance the health of the river and spur the creation of outdoor amenities and community development opportunities from downtown Indianapolis to Carmel. The park will be free and open to the public and is expected to include numerous features, such as a treehouse, vehicle-rated bridge, pedestrian boardwalk, hammock grove, ropes course and a paved trail along the river that will increase opportunities for users to connect to Indianapolis’s Town Run Trails Park and to the City of Carmel. Additionally, the region will replace the existing intersection at 96th Street and Allisonville Road with a roundabout, improving traffic flow and reducing car emissions. A $4.7 million READI grant is seeding the $114.8 million project.

This article was featured in the July 2022 edition of the IEDC’s newsletter. Subscribe today.