Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 25, 2017

City to offer grants for downtown

By Dave Hotle | Jun 20, 2017

 

 

In addition to the Washington Incentive Fund (WIF) grants that assist building owners in the downtown area to make improvements to the facades of their businesses, Washington may soon offer a new series of grants aimed at larger improvements to the downtown area.

During the regular Washington City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, the council will consider a resolution approving the guidelines for the new Downtown Incentive Grant (DIG) fund, aimed at assisting larger projects. Funding for the grants will come from the City of Washington’s municipal grants from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation, and Main Street Washington will administer the program, Main Street Washington director Sarah Grunewaldt said

“Main Street Washington in the past has been very successful with our incentive funds,” Grunewaldt said. “We had been able to do 50-50 matching grants. Downtown is considered to be in a ‘slum and blight zone.’ It obviously doesn’t look like it, but 10 years ago the area needed some help.”

She said the city would be able to give Tax Increment Finance assistance, but the buildings in the downtown area are already assessed at such a low level that not much increment is created. Because of that, Grunewaldt and Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson worked to develop a grant for people with a building in the downtown area in which they will put a large investment into renovating. She said grants can be given for renovation projects in excess of $100,000. The grant will be a 3-1 match. She said $25,000 can be given as a grant for a $100,000 project.

Grunewaldt said Main Street is the recommending agent and the city will decide who is given the grants once the city grants an occupancy permit. Grants can be up to $50,000 for larger projects.

Application information is under development. People will be able to apply in a manner similar to WIF applications. The business and Main Street will work together to determine the application. Some of the things that will be looked at will be the bids from contractors, making sure the business meets the minimum criteria. Grunewaldt said one thing checked will be historical

“It is a forgivable loan program,” Grunewaldt said. “If they decide to sell it within three years, there is a sliding scale as to how much of that investment would have to be returned. After three years it is 100 percent forgiven.

“The goal is we want people to invest in their buildings and stay downtown and build their business here.”

She said since the WIF was developed over 10 years ago, the program has granted about $300,000 in grants and created over $8 million in projects in the downtown area.

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