Downtown building owners anxious for possible grant dollars
Friday, July 18, 2014 12:01 AM
Main Street Van Wert Director Adam Ries speaks to Van Wert City Council in this 2013 file photo. Ries and Main Street Van Wert are continuing efforts to improve downtown Van Wert by applying for a grant to help building owners finance improvement projects. (DHI Media File Photo)
VAN WERT — Over the past ten years, downtown business and building owners have sunk hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 146 buildings that are a part of downtown Van Wert. Businesses have moved in, and a few have moved out. Mostly, the buildings remain, and part of the mission of Main Street Van Wert is to help find a way to keep those buildings safe and looking good.
Main Street Van Wert Program Director Adam Ries is continuing those efforts. He is applying for a $300,000 grant with the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) to help downtown building owners finance improvement projects.
“When programs like this are available, I think it’s Main Street’s duty to go after it,” Ries stated. “We got a lot of interest expressed by business owners about being a part of this.”
According to Ries, of the 146 downtown buildings, owners expressed an interest in doing work to 76 buildings. There were 51 owners who said they were definitely or very likely to take advantage of the project if Van Wert is awarded the Downtown Redevelopment community development block grant. And the projects are not just small ones. There were 18 projects listed that cost over $25,000.
The grant program works the same way as what the state used to call the Tier II grants. Building owners can sign up to participate with the understanding that the state money is a 50 percent match, making the maximum amount paid to each job at $10,000. Many downtown Van Wert buildings owe new looks and repairs to being a part of the old Tier II program the city received in 2005 and 2007. Ries noted than well over $3 million went into buildings as a result of participation in that program.
If Van Wert is awarded this time around $270,000 of the $300,000 would be used for building rehabilitation.
“We wrote this grant in such a way that most of the money would go right back into downtown, ” Ries noted.
Exterior work would also be put through the procedure of the city’s Design and Review Board to be sure it will fit in with the downtown area. If the building is of historic importance, approval by the state’s Historic Preservation Office may be needed also.
“This is good news for Van Wert,” commented Ries, “To see so many building owners being so proactive and wanting to participate in this.”
The Ohio DSA should release the list of those cities receiving the grant at the end of August.