Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 19, 2014

Villages of Van Buren project receives Great Places funding

Nov 13, 2012

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs has awarded more than $1.2 million in Iowa Great Places funding for 10 projects in seven Iowa communities, including Villages of Van Buren’s Stone Building renovation.

“This is wonderful news for Bentonsport and Van Buren County,” said Lisa Schnedler, president of Iowa Great Places Committee for Van Buren. “It will give Bentonsport a community center and a great teaching site for Villages Folk School classes. It will renovate one of Bentonsport’s oldest buildings in the heart of the National Historic District.”

The Stone Building, constructed in the 1850s, is situated in the heart of the Bentonsport Historic District on an Iowa Scenic Byway. The building is owned by the Bentonsport Improvement Association and presently sits empty. The association is renovating the building to serve as a community center and as a classroom for the Villages Folk School classes and other community events.

To date, the building has been tuck-pointed, but remains as a shell, lacking windows, doors and a finished interior. The building, when renovated, will be handicapped-accessible.

The Villages of Van Buren received $165,658 for the project.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs awarded a total of $1,215,664.94 in Iowa Great Places funding to the Villages of Van Buren; Danish Villages; Iowa City/Coralville/North Liberty; Hamilton/Webster counties; Marion; Tama County; and Turkey River. The seven communities requested a total of $1,571,566.94 for 14 different projects.

The awards support vertical infrastructure projects.

“These grant awards are significant because they help enhance quality of life in Iowa communities, generate economic activity and encourage job growth,” said Mary Cownie, director of Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

This year’s grants will leverage local funding in public-private partnerships for projects that are represented by everything from public art to adaptive re-use of a historic property.

Once completed, the projects will offer residents and visitors exciting and unique quality of life experiences. In turn, those experiential attractions are expected to draw tourists, and attract businesses and prospective employees while boosting the local economy.

According to a 2010 Economic Impact Report by O’Brien Economic Consulting, grants awarded to the first nine Iowa Great Places accepted into the program in 2005 and 2006 generated:

• Iowa Great Places grants created 1,012 construction jobs and 707 permanent jobs.

• More than $400 million invested in projects that are currently under construction or completed.

• Iowa Great Places grants have been leveraged on an average of 22-to-1 by local communities.

Overall, more than $12 million in Iowa Great Places funding was awarded to 27 Iowa Great Places communities through fiscal year 2012.

More information about Iowa Great Places is available at www.culturalaffairs.org or by calling the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs at 515-281-5111.

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