Kingsport Facade Grant Program gets $25,000 boost

Rick Wagner • Sep 27, 2008 at 12:00 AM

A grant program that has helped renovate facades in downtown Kingsport is set to get another financial boost.

The Facade Grant Program, administered by the Kingsport Economic Development Board for the Downtown Redevelopment District, would receive another $25,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding under a resolution approved on first reading Sept. 16 by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and up for final reading and approval at the Oct. 7 board meeting.

City Community Development Project Manager Mark Haga, who manages the city’s block grants and presented the proposal to the board, has identified $25,000 in CDBG funds “recaptured” from the Overlook Road project in the Highland neighborhood, a project that came in under budget.

The money is proposed to be reappropriated for the facade program, open to properties in the city’s central business district.

Bob Feathers, vice chairman of the Kingsport Economic Development Board and chairman of the KEDB’s Facade Grant/Redevelopment Incentive Grant Committee, said that not counting the additional $25,000 in CDBG money proposed, the facade program already has received $110,000 in funding.

Of that, $60,000 was from past CDBG funding and the other $50,000 — the original start-up money — from the KEDB.

John and Angela Vachon, owners of Urban Synergy, have applied for four facade grants, received approval for three, and have been reimbursed for two — the old First National Bank at the corner of Broad and Center streets and residential lofts on Market Street. Another one in the Five Points section is under way.

“We think they’re incredible,” Angela Vachon said of the facade grants, adding that she and her husband are considering a presentation to the BMA showing before and after shots of downtown facades. “A lot of this (improvement) wouldn’t be happening without the grants.”

To date, Feathers said $44,607 has been reimbursed to eight completed projects, $80,300 has been approved for 13 projects, and $25,000 is pending approval for three projects.

“The whole process was trying to make it as simple as possible to get a grant,” Feathers said of the application process.

He said the biggest challenge to the committee since the program began in November 2006 is to be fair and consistent from one project to the next.

The matching grant, which matches expenditures dollar for dollar, will pay up to $5,000 for a street-facing facade or $10,000 for a corner property.

“I think it has achieved what it set out to do,” Feathers said.

The same committee oversees the Redevelopment Incentive Grant, which began this year with $100,000 in city funding set to expire June 30, 2009. It is targeted to downtown but available citywide.

“It is designed to reimburse for demolition and landfill costs,” Feathers said.

That grant will provide a maximum of $20,000 per project, or no more than 10 percent of the total project cost, whichever is less.

So far, two projects have been reviewed.

For one, the application from Stir Fry building at 125 Broad St., the committee is awaiting receipts. And one at 126-128 E. Market St. and 210 Commerce St. is pending.

As for the facade grant program, Feathers said applicants need to remember that once applied for, the projects are supposed to be completed in six months.

He said the committee has been flexible with applicants that have gone over that deadline, but as funds dwindle, funding for expired projects could be reassigned to other projects. That would mean the expired projects would have to reapply for funding.

“It’s really not fair to hold the money out,” Feathers said.

Angela Vachon said Urban Synergy plans to apply for three more facade grants. It hasn’t applied for the redevelopment grants, but the two grant programs could work together on future projects downtown by Urban Synergy and others.

To apply for a facade grant, redevelopment grant or for more information on either program, contact Vanessa Barnett, administrative assistant for KOSBE, at the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce at 392-8811 or at vbennett@kingsportchamber.org.

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