With renewed vigor and springtime energy, the Downtown Development Authority is harking back to its foundation plan, which includes sprucing up the town.
With $3,500 dedicated to beautification, projects include placing flowers around town, in collaboration with the City.
Along with the beautification plan, the board voted to focus on improving blighted properties in the downtown area. “We have asked to come up with a list of properties that maybe we could somehow address, whether with a grant for facelifts or remodels,” said Merry Jo Larsen, DDA chair speaking at the April 9 meeting. “I think we have money in the budget for matching grants.”
The improvements could be funded with $5,000 targeted for Woodland Station, said Tanner Coy, DDA treasurer. if the beautification money isn’t spent, the remainder could be reallocated, he added.
Along that line, the DDA has spent some funds on planting grass in Woodland Station, with plans to add trees.
Among the proposed projects would be improving the asphalt area around the former Merit realty building and helping improve the parking lot at the Fortune Dragon.
For business owners who want to improve their properties, on a small scale, a matching grant could help while for larger projects, the DDA could consider a tax-increment-financing agreement, Coy said.
“If the level of investment in a property would result in a significant increase in value that is quantifiable, that could be captured in an agreement (TIF) and reimbursement to the property owner,” Coy said, “An example of that is the old Gorman Auction (at Chester and U.S. 24) property that is seriously blighted and won’t be occupied without significant investment.”
The proposal is the first of its kind for this DDA board. “As far I know, the DDA has never had a program to incentivize facade improvements,” Coy said.
For Larsen, the idea is a go. “I do think it’s important to figure out some way to help businesses,” she said.
From the audience, Sally Riley, the city’s planning director, added another incentive. “Cosmetic improvements do not need permit,” she said.