VAN WERT, Ohio (WFFT) -- Driving through downtown Van Wert looks a little different now.
Besides the usual traffic, there’s protective fencing on the sidewalk and sounds of construction.
The first phase of the Van Wert Forward Project is underway, renovating 11 buildings in town to attract new business.
“This downtown is the heart and soul of our city,” property manager Hall Block said. “We built that up and we think that builds a strong foundation for the rest of the city.”
Kim Brandt has worked in Van Wert for 21 years.
“It’s like home basically,” she said. “It is like my hometown.”
She’s hoping the revitalization will bring in more businesses to downtown, but she wants one thing to stay the same.
“I hope that they maintain that hometown feel, like the small-town feel,” Brandt said.
Renovations have already started on the interior of a building on the corner of Main Street and Washington Street.
Block said one of the ground floor sections will have a restaurant, while the upper floors will be used for apartments and residential spaces.
Seth Baker, the CEO of the Van Wert County Foundation, said the financial portion of the first phase will be finished by the end of this year.
“[This will] allow us to really kick in full force on the construction,” Baker said.
The first phase will cost about $26 million, with about $1 million coming from taxpayer dollars and the rest from tax credits, grants and interest on previous funding.
The estimated total cost for the project is now $80-100 million.
“As we continue to acquire properties and start to understand what the complexities are with those particular properties, that cost grows up,” Baker said.
The first phase is estimated to be completed in 12 to 18 months.
There will be either four or five phases, and a total of 50 buildings will be updated.