Columbia City and Community Foundation of Whitley County Announce Plans for Future Administration
The Community Foundation of Whitley County has entered into an agreement that will allow the Columbia City Parks Department to advance its master plan and provide expanded office space for growing administration needs. The current Foundation building located at 400 N. Whitley Street will become the new home of the Parks Department in exchange for a City owned 11-acre parcel of land on which a new building will be constructed for Foundation operations.
The brick structure located at 400 N. Whitley Street was originally built as a family home in 1860 and was relinquished when the high school was built in 1956. For a time it served as administrative offices to the schools and then sat empty, falling into disrepair. In 1999, the Community Foundation assumed ownership of the building and invested $260,000 from a Lilly Endowment grant to rehab the historical structure. It has served as the organization’s offices for the past 20 years. As the Foundation has grown, the need for additional staff is necessary however there is no more office space available in the current building.
Leaders considered a variety of options which included building an addition onto the current 160 year-old structure. While architects noted that it could be accomplished, there was concern about maintaining the historical integrity of the building. With the new aquatics center to the east and plans to expand the park with the demolition of the old high school to the north, the idea of enabling the Parks Department to house its operations in the heart of the park was shared with the City as their master plan was being developed.
The Community Foundation property recently appraised for $290,000. “While the Foundation’s Board could have put it on the market for sale as a private residence or business, it seemed that turning it over to the Parks Department was the right thing to do,” shared Andy More, President of the Community Foundation’s Board of Directors. In exchange, the City will trade a parcel of land located at 1171 E SR 205 where the Foundation will construct new offices in the coming year. “We are excited to partner with the Community Foundation to exchange these properties,” said Mayor Ryan Daniel. “We are also very appreciative of the Foundation’s dedication and continuing impact on the quality of life of our community.”
Founded in 1991, the Community Foundation has granted over $30 million to local Whitley County non-profit organizations, local projects and students seeking to further their education. The organization is positioning itself for growth so that it will continue to enrich the community for generations to come. Preliminary plans call for a 9,000 square foot facility that in addition to offices will include meeting space for large meetings, classes and workshops.
Board members have approved a plan that will be funded through grants from other private foundations and private contributions. “Similar to the support received thirty years ago when we needed to rehab the current building, funding from Lilly Endowment will be the lead grant in allowing this project to unfold. It’s important that the community understand that donor gifts to the Community Foundation that were earmarked for specific purposes will not be used to pay for the building“ said More. “For the past 30 years, our mission has been to enrich community and support local non-profits. We are not wavering from that commitment, but rather moving in a direction that will allow us to continue supporting great causes and ambitious students from our community,” he added.