Downtown grants move forward

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


The Washington City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to move ahead with grants for two downtown projects.

During the regular council meeting, the council approved resolutions Main Street Washington had recommended two projects for Downtown Enhancement Grants (DIG). The projects are Greiner Building?s project to renovate the former Washington Public Library building and for renovation work for the Frontier Family Restaurant. The Greiner grant proposal is $50,000 against a $432,000 project and the Frontier grant is a proposed $40,000 against a $160,000 project.

?This is newly established and these are the first two grants,? City administrator Brent Hinson said. ?This is money that the Washington County Riverboat Foundation gave us to use from our municipal grant allocation to provide grants for big projects. ?

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 announced a new series of grants aimed at larger improvements to the downtown area last June. Main Street Washington administers the program.

?The money comes to Washington on the basis that TIF (Tax Increment Financing) financing, and the downtown is a TIF area and you can TIF a project, TIF financing doesn?t work very well for rehabilitation because it doesn?t create increment,? Main Street Washington director Sarah Grunewaldt said. ?The buildings are already assessed at a value and there is no leeway. This was created as an incentive for people to do these projects that would create some value for them rather than a trickle of money over a long period of time.?

Grunewaldt and 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.

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.