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Welcome to Indiana honors annual Image Award recipients

by RANDY WELLS on April 26, 2014 10:59 AM

Welcome to Indiana, the nonprofit and volunteer group formed 25 years ago to promote economic vitality through a positive community appearance, Friday presented its annual Image Awards to businesses, groups and residents who have made significant improvements to their properties or landscaping and made the community a more inviting place.

At the group’s annual membership luncheon meeting at Rustic Lodge, Alex and Rena Kuzneski won WTI’s Residential Improvement Award for their home at 143 North Sixth St.

[PHOTO: Participants in Friday’s Welcome to Indiana luncheon included, from left, Patrick Moore, WTI’s chairman-elect; Image Award winners Mary Piper, accepting for the Blairsville Community Development Authority; Betsy Lauber, accepting for The Foundation for IUP; Alex Kuzneski, accepting the Residential Improvement award; and WTI’s outgoing chairwoman, Shanna Scordo. (Jamie Empfield/Gazette)]

The Blairsville Community Development Authority Market Street Beautification Committee won the Public Space Improvement Award for its flower-planting efforts along Blairsville’s main street.

And the Foundation for IUP won the Institutional Improvement Award for the university’s residential revival project.

WTI is probably best known for its erection and maintenance of six “Welcome to Indiana” signs along the main corridors leading into Indiana. But outgoing WTI director Shanna Scordo said the group has also planted hundreds of trees, fostered improvement projects through its Image Awards and collaborated with local municipalities and organizations on similar beautification projects.

During 2014 and into the future, WTI will continue its creation of Wayne Avenue Park on a sliver of land adjacent to the Mack Park fairgrounds and across Wayne Avenue from the KCAC. WTI’s goal is to transform the parcel into a walking park and create a hub to connect the KCAC to the fairgrounds, the Hoodlebug Trail to the streets of Indiana and the IUP campus to the community.

The park may eventually include a walking bridge over Marsh Run, drinking fountains and shaded seating areas.

WTI is also coordinating a tree sponsorship program to reforest Mack Park.

Sponsorships and general donations are welcomed for both the Wayne Avenue Park and Mack Park projects.

Patrick Moore was elected the new chairman of WTI at Friday’s meeting, and Barb Hauge, Dana Henry, Jim Struzzi and Zach Norwood were elected as new directors.

The WTI members and guests at the luncheon also heard three presentations.

Representatives of Kent, Ohio, and Kent State University described how partnerships were formed between the two beginning in 2008 to renovate and rehabilitate several blocks to strengthen the city’s downtown business district and to create a walking and biking connection between the business district and the campus.

Using government grants and private development investments, the partners demolished or moved older buildings and built new office and retail buildings. Sixty new businesses have moved into the area in the past three years and Kent State University’s enrollment has been increasing while the enrollment in many other Ohio universities has been falling.

In another presentation, Bob Doyle, a planner and project leader at Smith Group JJR, of Ann Arbor, Mich., explained how the Indiana Community University District is an initiative just getting started for planning the future development around the edge of the IUP campus.

It will bring together representatives from Indiana Borough, White Township, IUP and Indiana County. Specific focus areas will include housing, transportation, open space, economic development and amenities around the campus.

And Steve Wolfe, president and CEO of Indiana Regional Medical Center, told the group the hospital’s $50 million centennial renovation and expansion project is proceeding on schedule. Larger, robotic-ready operating suites will be one significant enhancements at IRMC when the project is finished, he said.

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