Mayor Explains How Stellar Designation Could Benefit Warsaw, Winona Lake

As a Stellar Communities finalist, Warsaw could complete projects along Market Street in a shorter amount of time if it becomes one of two designees this year.
The projects would enhance the connection between the communities of Warsaw and Winona Lake.
Friday afternoon, Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer sat down to discuss Stellar Communities, its benefits and how the city will keep the public informed.
He said he and other city officials went down Thursday with the other five Stellar city finalists to a workshop to talk about the process and timeline.
The blueprint of the city’s project has to be developed and submitted by 5 p.m. July 1. The site visit for Warsaw is scheduled for July 21 from 2 to 5 p.m., when the entire Stellar committee will evaluate the city’s projects, application and project sites.
“A Stellar designation gives the designee access to funds for projects that  they still have to meet the requirements for, they still have to apply, but it’s not in a competitive realm. So it’s not any different from what we’d do under any circumstances to apply for funds, other than as a Stellar designee, we have five years to complete these projects with the availability of those funds being available (to us) as a Stellar designee,” Thallemer explained.
He said the purpose of the Stellar program is to take the city’s planning and organization and go from “good to exceptional,” and continue the process and not stop with planning. The program wants cities to impact their communities by improving them. The Stellar designation allows cities to do that with these projects in an accelerated fashion, he said.
In Warsaw’s Stellar application, Thallemer said the city has a target area – mostly the Market Street neighborhood from downtown Warsaw to the entrance of The Village at Winona. He said they’re looking at connecting the two distinct areas through the Market Street projects.
A portion of the reconstruction of East Market Street already has been completed. The city now has a partner – Commonwealth Development Corporation of America – to turn the Little Crow building into affordable housing, which was part of Warsaw’s original application. The rest of the projects along Market Street involve senior housing, potentially using the Gatke property as a makerspace, improvements to the three parks and a roundabout at Winona Avenue.
A makerspace is a community center with tools. Makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment, community and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible with the resources available to individuals working alone, according to For an example of what a makerspace can be, Thallemer suggested looking at the website for the Idea Factory in Columbus, Ohio, at
“All of these projects have been on our radar for some time, but this gives us an opportunity to really conceptualize and then to lightly engineer and getting them to the point where they’re going to be ready to go to construction,” Thallemer said. “It’s all called feasibility engineering where you create cost estimates potentially, and timelines and details. That’s the process we’re in right now, it’s called the Strategic Investment Plan, and that’s the blueprint that’s due on July 1.”
He said he wants the community to understand that the Market Street neighborhood has seen some “beautiful” improvement with just the partial road infrastructure that’s been completed.
“We know that these types of projects will positively impact that neighborhood. Improving the housing in that area is another one of the projects,” Thallemer said. The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority gives grants for Home Of Your Own repairs to do just that, he noted.
All of the projects are designed to enhance, improve and stimulate private investment and development to revitalize the connection corridor between downtown Warsaw and The Village at Winona, he stated. They wouldn’t be possible in a concentrated time period without the benefit of the Stellar designation.
“So in the end, improvements that could potentially take 10 years to complete may be done in five. That’s the bonus, that’s the advantage of being a Stellar designee,” Thallemer said.
While the city will have some investment in the projects and will be looking for community support, Thallemer said the majority of funding will be available through designated funds that are applicable to the projects.
Over the next several weeks, starting this week, Thallemer said the city will begin talking about the projects in more detail on the city’s Facebook page, which can be found under “City of Warsaw, IN.” Some of the projects are still being refined, while others are pretty straightforward. As more details about each project become available, the city will share that information, he said.
“We want the information to get out. We want people to know what we’re looking at doing,” he said. “… We want the community to know what we’re doing. We want the community to understand this will benefit the Market Street area and the entire community as well as the region by bolstering the connection between Warsaw and the Town of Winona Lake.”
The City of Warsaw is the applicant, but has many project partners, especially the Town of Winona Lake, Thallemer said.
“We have a committee that meets and Craig (Allebach), the town coordinator, is part of our committee and is heavily involved in this,” Thallemer said. “The City of Warsaw is the finalist, but in part of that process we’ve identified in our letter of intent that we wish Winona Lake to be involved in these projects. We’ve received positive acknowledgement that that was a good thing that it was not just about our city, it’s about our community.”
Established in 2011, the SCDP began as a collaboration between the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Office of Community and Rural Affairs and Indiana Department of Transportation to support community planning and development initiatives by streamlining access to available funding sources and capacity building resources.
Warsaw is competing against Rushville and Shelbyville in the Division 1 category. Finalist communities are separated into a division based on their population, and Division 1 is for populations of 6,000 to 50,000 while Division 2 is for populations 5,999 and below.
“We’ve been rewarded for the planning we’ve done to this point, through the accomplishments that we’ve already achieved in our Stellar designated target area, but this gives us the opportunity to take it to the next level,” Thallemer concluded.