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By Carmen Ensinger
Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer met with members of the Greenfield Revitalization Project (GRP) last Thursday, Sept. 23, to discuss the plans they have to improve the Greenfield Square and bring more business to the area.
GRP President Lauren Sprung and Vice President Jenny Hoots met Davidsmeyer on the square around 10 a.m. and walked with him around the square showing him the vacant buildings and sharing with him their ideas that the group has for some of those empty buildings.
“Basically, the whole point of the meeting was just to familiarize him with our projects, understand where he could fill in the gaps and determine if he would back us on the grants that we apply for,” Sprung said.
So far, GRP has only applied for one major grant, a Kubota $100,000 grant back in April, that they did not receive.
“We never really received any feedback on why we lost out on that grant so we have been working solely on donations,” Sprung said.
Sprung said the GRP will be working with the city in applying for an upcoming grant.
“Gov. Pritzker announced a grant program to help rebuild downtown,” Sprung said. “The problem is that non-profits, like GRP, have to match 50 percent of what you are awarded and we just don’t have the funds to do that so we are going to work with the city and the city is going to apply for the grant in conjunction with us because municipalities don’t have to match 50 percent of the grant.”
The program Sprung is referring to is the $50 million Rebuild Illinois Main Street and Downtown Capital Program through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. (DCEO).
This program is designed to bring forward investments to revitalize commercial areas leveraging funds from the American Rescue Plan act to provide grants for construction, repair and modernization of public infrastructure and amenities to boost jobs, improve quality of life and stimulate economic activity for areas hit hardest during COVID-19. Project awards will range from $250,000 to $3 million.
“We are working with the city and focusing on the north side of the square,” Sprung said. “One thing we would like to do on that side of the square is expand the library, but we are also working on some other ideas.”
Sprung said she bounced their ideas off Davidsmeyer and he gave them a thumbs up.
“He was very receptive to our ideas and plans for the square and encouraged by our efforts,” she said. “He loves seeing community members come together to solve issues and problems and so he was really excited about that. We talked about what resources he could make available to us and that having him back our grants would create a greater rate of success once we apply for them.”
Sprung said there are two grants that GRP currently has their eyes on – a Rural Economic Development grant that is due in February and a capital grant that is funded quarterly.
“We are a non-profit – we have our Employer Identification Number (EIN) but we are not 501c3 certified yet,” Sprung said. “I applied for that in May, but it could take a whole year because it is ran by the federal government so we are simply waiting on that status to come through. Not all grants require that status but it definitely will help us so it is just a waiting game at this point.”
One local group that gives out a lot of grants is DOT Foods.
“We have our eyes on some grants from DOT Foods, but you do have to be 501c3 certified to apply for their large grants,” Sprung said. “So, again, we are just waiting on that status to work with them.”
DOT Foods has another charitable branch called the Tracy Foundation that Sprung is going to pursue a grant with once they receive their 501c3 certification.
“The Tracy Foundation has a grant where they can help with daycares – even building one from the ground up,” she said. “And we have had a daycare on our radar for a long time. The good news is, we probably won’t need to build one from the ground up.”
Sprung said they just recently received some very good news about using a local church as a location for a daycare.
“Just last night, myself and two GRP members met with the First Baptist Church to start conversations on using their facility as a location for a daycare,” she said. “We came out really excited about the opportunity. Now we are going to go back to them on Oct. 5 and present a business plan to their Board of Trustees to see if we can progress with a daycare at that facility.”
Another plan the GRP has is to hopefully, purchase the old Search’s IGA building on the southwest side of the square and put in a gym.
“The building will be available in an upcoming tax sale. Sprung said. “We would like to purchase it and then use a capital grant to turn it into a gym. Whether that is feasible or not has yet to be determined.”
Sprung said that is something they asked Davidsmeyer.
“We presented our idea about the building to Davidsmeyer,” she said. “He said using grants for gyms can be a little hard – but it’s not impossible.”
Sprung said there are currently two vacant buildings for sale that she would like to see purchased, renovated and businesses started in.
“We are trying to attract local investors, whether they are in Greenfield or surrounding areas, to put in a laundromat or coffeeshop,” she said. “Those are two businesses that community members have expressed an interest towards.”
To help with the purchase and renovation of these buildings, Sprung said the state offers the Intermediate Relending Program (IRP) for potential investors.
“The IRP is a low, one percent interest loan program,” she said. “This allows private investors to use cheap money and build a business up.”
The GRP’s next fundraiser will be a car and truck show that will surely bring hundreds of people to the Greenfield Square on Oct. 23.
“I’ve never been to a car show, but I hear they are very popular these days,” Sprung said. “I hope this show attracts lots of people to our downtown area.”
Registration will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. with judging from 12 noon to 3 p.m. and awards given out at 4 p.m. Food trucks will be on site with food and drinks available.