Tue07222014

Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

   2014 39.95 HSD w VIDor PH-Banner2-500-x-125

Col. Beach will present stronger revitalization grant application

After only four meetings with Jerry Davis, Executive Director of the Northern Neck Planning District Commission, the Colonial Beach Revitalization Management Team is ready to pass the draft application on to the town council. “This will be the last meeting for the group before the grant application is approved,” Davis told the group with confidence.  

Davis recapped the project’s final details with the group and finalized the last steps needed to complete the process of applying for an almost $1 million Community Development Block Grant.

The application will go to the council for their second and final public hearing next week. Davis and staff will present a draft application to the council at the February 13 meeting. Changes will be made as needed, and Davis hopes to have the council’s final approval to submit the application at the March meeting.

The grant application deadline is March 26, 2014, at 5:00 pm. The state usually announces the awarded grants in June. However, Davis said, with a new governor, the schedule may change.

Congress has reduced the amount of grant funds this year by 5%. Davis said the state is estimating between $9 and $10 million to be awarded this year.

With the reduced funding, Davis estimates that the state will probably award funding for about ten to twelve projects, and he expects there will be roughly 35 applicants- the same number as last year. This means that both new and returning applicants will be competing more heavily for the existing funds.

Although the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will be funding the grant, federal regulations have place restrictions on how much funding the state can provide for projects dealing with elimination of slum and physical/economical blight. Most of the money awarded through revitalization block grants must benefit low- to moderate-income citizens by offering jobs or housing. Last year, the state only awarded about 5% of the funds toward eliminating slum and blight.

Previously, Colonial Beach’s application dealt mostly with slum and blight elimination. So to make the application more competitive, the group has focused more on providing low- to moderate-income jobs. Currently, in order for businesses to take advantage of the loans provided through the grant, they must commit to creating at least one job for low- to moderate-income individuals.

Another way the group is utilizing grant money to benefit low- to moderate-income individuals is to provide workforce-housing apartment units that meet minimum housing standards and can be built for $2,500 per unit.  

Currently, the town is planning to provide this housing by renovating four town-owned properties, as well as two privately owned properties. To date, the town is planning to renovate the old CBPD building and the Klotz building, located on North Irving Ave., and the upstairs portion of the building which currently is being leased to the CB Chamber of Commerce. Another privately owned building slated for these improvements is located on Hawthorne St. The addition of these apartment renovations will allow the town to be eligible for an additional $300,000 in grant funds.

Project areas will be well defined in this year’s application. Davis said that the town’s application scored low in this area last year. The state had a hard time determining where projects were to take place.

The planned economic restructuring will change the economy of the downtown area. The application will define these economic project activities. First, the town will complete the formation of the Downtown Colonial Beach Organization. Its main purpose will be to market and promote the historic resort commercial/Boardwalk area via business ventures such as “opportunity” fairs, “shop local” campaigns and other activities, such as the Second Friday ArtWalks.

Other economic restructuring will include small business loans called “nano-loans” in amounts of $1 to $5 thousand. The purpose for funds from these loans is to help fill vacant commercial spaces, particularly in the art district.

Design and installation of wayfaring signage will also help the economy of the downtown area. Finally, the revitalization team will continue to coordinate tourism with the Northern Neck Tourism Commission and the Westmoreland County Tourism Council and encourage private investments that are independent but complimentary to the downtown revitalization efforts.

Physical improvements will focus on building façades. The town will also create a mural program, remove three utility poles on Taylor St., replace a section of the Boardwalk’s concrete (from the Riverboat on the Potomac restaurant to Colonial Ave.) and repair the Boardwalk’s concrete from the Riverboat to Hawthorne St.

Landscaping will be added to the Boardwalk, as well as outdoor seating along its length, leading up to Colonial Ave., where the group plans to turn the end portion of the street into a “pedestrian plaza”.

The pedestrian plaza will utilize a rarely-used portion at the end of Colonial Ave. Improvements include providing landscaping, street furniture for seating, and if the budget will allow, adding a splash pad for children and adults to enjoy during the summer months.

Funding for the replacement of the Boardwalk’s concrete and the pedestrian plaza will be paid for by a grant of $490,000 the town is seeking from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

—Linda Farneth

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