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Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

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Revitalization application process in full swing

With the help of Jerry Davis, Executive Director of the Northern Neck Planning Commission, the efforts to secure the revitalization grant for Colonial Beach are shaping up. Davis is following in the tried and true footsteps the commission used to help Montross, which has already been successful in securing a half million dollar revitalization grant and has started to implement the plan.

Colonial Beach will make its third attempt in applying for a Revitalization grant of almost one million dollars from The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The grant, often referred to as a Revitalization Block Grant, is part of money the DHCD gives out each year to competing localities to help with revitalization designed to boost the localities’ economy and create jobs for low- to moderate-income individuals.

Colonial Beach is seeking a total of $1,487,000 for revitalization along the Boardwalk, Taylor Street and some areas close by. Funds will come from two sources: $997,000 from the Department of Housing and Community Development; and $490,000 in Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) grants.

The target area for revitalization in Colonial Beach has not changed much. It mostly encompasses the downtown area, stretching from Colonial Ave. to Boundary St., and from the Boardwalk to Washington Ave. in some areas. However, at the last meeting on December 16, the team discussed changes in the boundaries to exclude vacant lots and include a block of land on the south side of Boundary Street.

The dilemma arose after Davis explained that including records of recent renovation work would help the town convey their intentions to continue revitalization long after the grant money runs out. The area south of Boundary St. includes three recently renovated buildings belonging to St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church.

The group concluded that the vacant lots might detract from the application. A heated debate took place, with no real resolve, so the boundaries remained the same at the end of the meeting.

The plan for utilizing money from the grant has changed from previous years’ plans, to include two large programs designed to help business owners make changes in their business which will result in more jobs for low- to moderate-income individuals, and one to improve the overall appearance of business facades.

The Facade Improvement Program is designed to help make the area as a whole more attractive, as well as improve each building’s appearance. Recipients will have free architectural services provided to them, funded through the grant. A facade committee, with the help of architects, will decide how the money can be best spent to make the greatest impact on the area as a whole.

The businesses chosen to participate in the program will match 50/50 loan money that is set aside from the Revitalization Block Grant to upgrade the facades of their businesses. So a $5,000 investment will result in $10,000 worth of improvements. The loan portion is “forgivable” in five years, meaning each year the upgrades are maintained, the loan portion will be forgiven by 20 percent.

$50,000 will be used for the actual loans; another $5,000 will pay for architectural services; and $10,000 will be utilized for a mural program.

The mural program will help fund the creation of 2 to 3 murals on various buildings within the project area. With the large group of artists in town within the target area, the Beach will be well-equipped to form a mural committee and execute the program. The murals will be designed to compliment the existing artwork already present along the Boardwalk.

The second program will be a Business Assistance program. Another $50,000 revolving loan fund will be dedicated to this program, which will give nano loans in the amount of one to five thousand dollars. The program will help new businesses become established, as well as helping existing businesses to grow. The goal is to create jobs for low- to moderate-income individuals.

These nano loans will be available to businesses within the revitalization target area and may be used for: building and land acquisition; leasehold and site improvements; new construction and rehabilitation costs; purchases of fixtures, machinery and equipment, and associated installation costs.

These loans will offer low interest rates, and repayments will go back into the loan fund to continue to be utilized for future applicants.

There are several policy documents the town council will be presented with, that will need to be passed, in order for DHCD to consider offering the grant. Drafts of the programs described above will also be presented to the town council to be approved.

Linda Farneth

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