Orleans Launches Downtown Makeover

Inspired by its recent bicentennial, one of Indiana’s oldest communities focuses attention on downtown revitalization.

Orleans, Orange County, Indiana
A new facade grant programs helps property owners spruce up historic downtown storefronts. (Photo: Lee Lewellen)

Spotlight on Downtown

Several downtown buildings in Orange County’s oldest community are getting a facelift this summer. Inspired by the town’s 2015 bicentennial, Orleans officials launched a number of improvement projects, including a $1.1 million rehabilitation of the town’s 1915 Carnegie library.

The Orleans Public Library unveiled the updates in late July, including a new architecturally compatible addition designed by the New Albany-based Michell Timperman Ritz. The addition almost doubles the library’s square footage, housing a computer lab, teen and children’s areas, a new circulation area, offices, restrooms, and storage space. The original Arts and Crafts-style building received new paint, carpet, and lighting, and updates to convert the lower level to classroom and meeting space.

Orleans Carnegie Library

Just a block away, a new façade improvement project focuses on buildings around the town’s historic Congress Square. Guided by Ball State University in a community visioning process, the town determined that rehabbing historic buildings and improving newer infill construction should be a key element of downtown development. In collaboration with the Orange County Economic Development Partnership, the Town of Orleans, Hoosier Uplands, Radius, and the Orleans Chamber of Commerce, the town established a program to award grants up to $10,000 for façade improvements. So far, more than 25 projects within the National Register-listed downtown have received funding.

“We are very excited about this opportunity and feel this important project will enhance our hometown of Orleans for years to come,” says Robert F. Henderson, Orleans Town Clerk and Executive Chamber Director. Orange County Economic Development Director Lloyd Arnold agrees, “This is just the beginning, and it’s a perfect example of what can happen when a community comes together and everyone is on board with bringing about positive change.”F

Orleans downtown rendering

The town also intervened to save three endangered downtown buildings, with plans to stabilize and market them to owners who will complete the rehab. Fire and smoke heavily damaged the 1897 former bank housing Paradise Pizza and two neighboring commercial buildings last July. The town acquired all three, and is using a grant from Indiana Landmarks’ Efroymson Family Endangered Places fund to assess the structures and prioritize repairs. Cleanout and stabilization work have already begun.

If you’re heading south from Indianapolis to French Lick and West Baden Springs, you’ll pass through Orleans on the way. Stop and take a look around!

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