WABASH and LIGONIER - The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has approved more than $1.2 million in Regional Cities Initiative funding for two projects in northeast Indiana. The funding will support renovation of the historic Eagles Theatre in downtown Wabash and construction of the Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail in Ligonier. 

The state has awarded $976,636 for the Eagles Theatre project, work for which is expected to begin late this year and be complete in 2019. The project aims to increase the theatre's capacity from 440 to 550, increase lobby space, open up the backstage area and re-open the second balcony. Organizers also plan to add a 45-seat theater with state-of-the-art sound and update three rooms for music lessons.

The theatre was originally build in 1906. The IEDC says the nearly $5 million project will allow the theatre to expand its live program offerings. 

The state has also approved $248,920 for the Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail, a five-mile trail loop which will connect the downtown Ligonier business district with parks and historical sites. The IEDC says 100 percent of the city's residents live within a half-mile of the trail, allowing for increased connectivity and wellness in the region.

The trail project will cost a total of $1.27 million and the state says the Regional Cities funding will be conditional upon the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority submitting a request for funds prior to the start of each phase of the project.

"As Indiana's unemployment rate keeps dropping, it is important that we continue our focus on attracting talent to our state," said IEDC President Elaine Bedel. "The Indiana Regional Cities Initiative is helping transform communities across the state, creating nationally-recognized destinations to live, work and play. The transformational renovation of Eagles Theatre and the construction of the Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail will enhance the region's arts, culture and recreation, supporting northeast Indiana's vision of attaining one million Hoosiers residents by 2020."

Both projects are part of the northeast Indiana region's Road to One Million plan.