- Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 October 2013 10:26
- Published on Wednesday, 23 October 2013 10:26
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After many hours of hard work by a group of dedicated volunteers, Town staff and Northern Neck Planning District staff, the Town of Montross hosted the first public preview of the facade improvements recommended by architects Ray and Dana Herlong, and the Facade Improvement Committee. A group of 35 business owners, residents and members of the facade committee met at the Westmoreland Fire Department last Wednesday, Oct. 16, to learn how recipients were chosen and to view a slideshow preview of improvements that are planned.
Herlong & Assoc. were on hand last week in Montross to announce the ten businesses that have been chosen to receive money from the Community Development Block Grant through the facade improvement program. Recipients will match grant money equally, with their own money and work, to make improvements to their facades.
Napa, Helms Antiques, Jameka, and the Wakefield Museum will be offered $10,000 each. Angelo’s Pizza, Art of Coffee, P&D Auto, Allegiance Title, and George Townsend will all receive $7,200, and Montross Body Shop will receive $4,000.
The ten recipients of the grant money were chosen from 29 applicants by the facade committee. The Herlongs did provide guidance by presenting the committee with various criteria to use when choosing recipients, but remained neutral, leaving the decision up to the committee members. Members of the committee were chosen by the council and were citizens who had no ties to the properties or their owners to ensure the group was independent and had no stake in the decision process.
The Herlongs worked with the applicants to choose ideas for improvements. Although all applicants did not receive offers of money, each one was provided detailed help and plans for renovations to their properties. To date, all applicants have expressed excitement surrounding the upcoming improvements and a willingness to proceed with upgrades, regardless of whether they received grant money or not.
In order to get the most bang for their buck, the Montross Facade Improvement Committee used several guidelines when choosing properties to receive money from the program.
A questionnaire was filled out for each property to help determine which properties fit the first set of criteria: visibility from Kings Highway (Route 3); physical need; historical contribution and cost of improvements. The questionnaire was a surprise to the committee. Ray Herlong said, “We didn’t want anyone to think of answers before the reviewing process.”
In the first analysis, each criteria met gave the applicant one point, but Herlong believed that each criteria did not carry the same weight. For example, cost of improvements should not be judged the same as the other criteria. So the group assigned a point system to the criteria. Visibility from Kings Highway, which was considered the most important aspect of the facade improvement program, was assigned a score of- up to six points, physical need- four points, historical contribution- three points, and cost of improvement- one point.
On the second test, the list of four top properties remained the same, however three of the six remaining properties did change, based on the weighted analysis.
Some other criteria used had eliminated some properties from the list of recipients. For example, if the building was consistently maintained and already retained historical and aesthetic preservation, it was lowered on the list to receive funds since they would not change significantly from the small amount of grant money being offered. Larger buildings were also given lower scores. The group wants to utilize the money in a way that would have the greatest impact to the streetscape of Kings Hwy.
The group went through several exercises to determine the end list.
All the properties were graded, in case one or more of the ten chosen decide not to utilize the grant moneys. Because grant money must be matched with funds provided by the property owners, there is always a chance that a business may not be in a position to use the funds.
The management team agreed with the architects that the businesses along Route 3, the town’s main thoroughfare, should be aesthetically pleasing and share a common thread to entice motorists to stop and shop in the town. Businesses off the beaten path will be considered for way-finding signs, designed to lure consumers to their businesses.
The Herlongs refrained from discussing other work to be done with the DHCD block grant money, but did add that some properties are being considered for murals and some lots are slated for landscape improvements, designed not to interfere with possible future development.
Planned improvements for the ten properties selected must now go to the State for approval before advertising for bids from contractors to complete the work.