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By Carmen Ensinger
The City of Carrollton met recently with Benton and Associates Representative Jaime Headon recently to discuss applying for the Rebuild Downtowns and Main Streets Capital Grant Program. Prior to the meeting, the city council members, along with members of the Carrollton Square Initiatives and a member of the Greene County Board, met with Representatives C.D. Davidsmeyer and Steve McClure.
The Rebuild Downtowns and Main Streets Capital Grant Program will provide grants of up to $3 million to support improvements and encourage investment in commercial corridors and downtowns that have experienced disinvestment, particularly in communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis.
The program will fund capital projects that make these commercial areas more attractive for private investment, generate short-term and long-term employment opportunities and improve quality of life in the community through high-quality infrastructure and amenities.
The program has $50 million in total funding with grants in the amount of $250,000 to $3 million. A total of only 30 projects will be awarded. The deadline to submit a project for consideration is Jan. 10.
To be eligible for this grant opportunity, projects must be located in a commercial corridor or downtown area with multiple public-facing commercial establishments. Eligible projects include, but are not limited to new construction or rehabilitation of roads, parks and sidewalks; transit, pedestrian, bicycle infrastructure, broadband infrastructure; mixed use or transit oriented development; modernization of structures in disrepair, etcetera.
The good news for Carrollton is that they potentially already have a project proposal already ready to go thanks to the CSI and their proposal for the downtown Carrollton Square drawn up by Vandwalle and Associates in 2019 when Carrollton was trying to pass the Tax Increment Financing proposal.
“Grant proposals that have a planning document or a design plan ready to go for the projects they are applying for are going to be ahead of the game,” Headon said. “Carrollton is lucky that back in 2019 the CSI did that revitalization plan and part of that plan can be used to apply for this grant.”
Some of the items included in the 2019 revitalization plan included improving ADA accessibility; working on the east side of the square where parallel parking is now and changing the parking; improving the sidewalk around the inside of the square to 10-foot ADA compliant sidewalks and updating the lighting around the square.
Parking on Fifth Street would be changed from two sides of parallel parking with a median in the middle and diagonal parking on the inside near the courthouse to just two sides of diagonal parking on the inside with the median separating the parking from Fifth St. This would allow for a 10-foot-wide concrete walkway around the square to accommodate pedestrians and events. Along with an activated event space. There would also be the addition of decorative lighting around the square and new water mains.
On South Main St., there will also be changes made to the parking area with bump-outs into the parking lot created at driveways and sidewalks. A pedestrian island and additional crosswalks will also be created near Fifth St.
Additional walkways will also be created at three corners of the courthouse square to provide access to the courthouse. Also included will be adding additional power which would allow for larger events that require more power.
The total cost of all of these projects come to approximately $2.1 million.
“When we met with McClure and Davidsmeyer and we asked what we should go for, they thought we should go for the whole thing,” Headon said. “But I think if we went for the entire $3 million, we might be asking for a lot, but I think if we stay in the $2 million range it is a safe middle ground.”
Headon said there will be a lot of competition and with only 30 projects awarded, Carrollton needs to make their application as appealing as possible.
“My thought is to shine as bright as we can to be a reason for them to award a project down state,” Headon said. “They are going to support us as much as they possibly can.”
Headon said they needed to talk about some of the realities of the grant.
“There are things we don’t have any control over, such as opportunity zones and different geographical areas,” he said. “We do have women in business in the downtown area, so we do qualify for the minority inclusion plan.”
With that being said, Headon said the city really needs to consider some sort of local match to give them extra points of consideration.
“I would love this to be a 100 percent grant, and we may end up saying ‘listen, that is all we can do right now’, but I think we need to have an open mind about getting as many points as we possibly can,” he said. “Even if it is by providing a little bit of local support on the financial side. Again, you might not be able to do it, but let’s keep an open mind to that.”
Alderman Tim Reif asked how much it was going to cost to submit the grant application.
Headon said the cost was $4,500 to submit the application for consideration and around another $2,000 for his firm to fill out the application. However, there was some good news in this area as well.
“I believe you have some local support in this area as well,” he said. “The CSI group has agreed to pay for the grant application and I believe there is some local support from the businesses to cover the costs as well.”
The council unanimously agreed to allow Benton and Associates to pursue the Mainstreet grant as presented, in the amount of $2.1 million.