Looking west and east on Front Royal’s East Main St. – things are looking up with the influx of an unexpected $700,000 in state community development grant funding to Front Royal. Photos/Roger Bianchini
FRONT ROYAL – Sometimes it pays to be Number 2, well actually Number 16, just one position out of the money among applicants for State economic development grant money. As Front Royal’s Community Development Director Felicia Hart explained to council following the September 19 announcement of over $9-million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding announced for distribution to 15 Virginia municipalities, Front Royal was Number One out of the second group of municipal applicants – the group not getting money.
But being Number One out of the Number Two group paid off on January 5, when the office of Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the awarding of another $2,149,346 in CDBG funding to four more municipalities. Consequently Front Royal will receive $700,000 to foster economic revitalization to its business district.
Having faced the disappointment of being so close, yet out of the money less than four months ago, Royal Examiner asked town Community Development Director Hart about the unexpected good news to start the new year.
“We, as a town and community, feel very fortunate that additional State funds were found to help us secure this grant towards the economic revitalization of our area. In addition to all the volunteers who put all their time and effort into making this a success, Town Council should be acknowledged for their work in understanding the need for this grant and finding the funds to match the requested State funds.
“This grant provides us two years to implement, so our committee will be putting together an overall timeline – to-do’s, projects, fund allocations, etc. – as part of our entire game plan. I’m excited to see all the hard work of our volunteers rewarded. Now, we’ll be rolling up our sleeves and getting back to work – again.
“What a great problem to have!”
Now the positive movement on downtown Front Royal re-development from the private sector will get a boost from the federal government, by way of state government administration. Above, the Barnhart properties on the 100 block of East Main Street are undergoing external and internal overhauls; as is the Weaver building across the street – brew pubs, Thai restaurants, and more are coming.
In the governor’s Friday, January 5 press release, McAuliffe said, “This program has long been providing funding for projects that improve the quality of life for thousands of Virginians every year. Through Community Development Block Grants, we are able to address needs across the Commonwealth including critical infrastructure, such as water and sewer service, as well as improve economic development opportunities, ensuring job creation in rural areas. I congratulate the four grantees and look forward to the success of these projects in Virginia.”
The governor’s office release also traced the history of the program: “Since 1982, the federally-funded CDBG program has been administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Nearly three hundred non-metropolitan cities, counties, and towns are eligible for this program in the Commonwealth. Most of the approximately $16.5 million Virginia receives annually is allocated among local government applicants through a competitive process using objective scoring criteria developed in consultation with eligible localities.”
Receiving the additional CDBG funds in addition to Front Royal ($700,000) were the Town of Narrows ($699,346) and the Counties of Scott ($250,000) and Amherst ($500,000). Awarding of the State CDBG funds mandates a matching investment, if not precisely 50/50 close to it, by the municipality to achieve its redevelopment proposal.
The Town’s original application sought one-million dollars from the State under a special exception of need. The projects cited in that application included six focused on downtown. The first of those sought exterior improvements to privately owned business properties in the Downtown Historic Business District:
· Façade improvements, $365,000 State/$350,000 Town;
The other five downtown projects cited physical improvements to publicly owned Town property, including:
· Physical improvements, public restrooms and drinking fountains, to the Town Gazebo area, $125,000 State/$26,180 Town;
· Multi-purpose Open Air Gathering Space, Gazebo area, $137,500 State/$114,500 Town;
· Sidewalk and streetlight upgrades on East Main Street, $25,000 State/$13,500 Town;
· Improvement to Jackson Street parking and side street and alley enhancements, $40,000 State/$16,500 Town.
· A sixth project, the Royal Shenandoah Greenway tied to the Criser Road Trail Link, was proposed at no cost to the State, with all $400,000 funded by the Town.
So, including the Greenway project funded in total by the Town ($400,000) and the façade improvements for private businesses ($735,000 total State and Town), the total amount of funding proposed for Public Improvements in the original million-dollar funding application was $898,180, with $327,500 from the State and $570,680 funded by the Town.
Other costs included:
· Administrative ($87,350 total – $79,800 State/$7,550 Town);
· Signage ($190,500 total – $156,000 State/$34,500 Town);
· and Branding & Marketing ($74,900 total – $51,700 State/$23,200 town.
If you glazed over by ALL those NUMBERS, the grand total of the originally-submitted Town of Front Royal CDBG application was $1,985,930, with $1,000,000 even coming from the State and remaining $985,930 funded by the Town.
Hart told Royal Examiner on Monday, January 8, that the Towns’ Project Management Team for the grant will have to reappraise its priorities to determine how the $300,000 reduction in State funding will impact the revitalization plan.
As stated by Town Planning Director Jeremy Camp during a Monday night council meeting power point presentation on the CDBG program and the Town’s most recent visioning statement related to the grant application, communities receiving CDBG funds have two years to complete their redevelopment project utilizing the State money. As for potential cuts to the plan, Camp pointed to a pavilion included as part of the Gazebo
area public improvements as a “large-ticket” item cost-wise that might be a prime candidate to be deferred five or so years into the future.
Then there are old favorites like Royal Cinemas and not-quite-as-old Brooklyn’s Marketplace under the tree next door. Will there be façade improvement money coming all these new and old business’s way?