LOOGOOTEE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– A new downtown gathering space is on its way to downtown Loogootee.

Mayor Noel Harty said a park, including a pavilion, a stage and a green space, will be put in right off of U.S. Route 231 near the railroad tracks, in what’s currently a gravel parking lot. 

Harty said the city purchased the land 10 years ago– and had spent years trying to get grant money to help with the project, before receiving a $225,000 READI grant from the state in December. 

“I think this was the fourth time that we went after a grant,” he said. “So we were very persistent, and we want to thank READI and all of the  people who judged the different applicants.”

Going through the process several times led to them making slight changes– like going from an original plan for a gazebo and changing the layout, according to Harty.

“I want to thank all of the people that added input during the times that we didn’t get it,” he said. “We always received some constructive criticism, if that’s what you want to refer to it as, I thought it was good because it allowed us to improve our project each time.”

The city will be matching the grant, meaning it will cost $450,000 total. Harty said one of the top reasons they pursued the project was to try and bring more people to the area. For small business owner Jolene McAtee, she said she was happy there was finally going to be something going in the vacant lot.

“Not only as a business owner, but as a community person, anything they add to that, when you used to come through town, it was such an eyesore,” she said. “That is going to be such a welcoming space that will add a lot of beauty.” 

Right now, Harty said they are working to remove electric and telephone poles in the lot– a lengthy process. He said the end date for the project would be sometime in late 2023, or early 2024.

He said he was happy to finally see the project take the next steps– as he believes it is vital for the community.

“Rural communities as a whole, their number one challenge is trying to get their downtown, either get them going or keep them going,” he said. “That’s definitely our number one goal right now in Loogootee.”