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01-24-04: Celina may be eligible for funds for downtown


Downtown Celina building owners could claim thousands of state grant dollars for general building upgrades, if city leaders continue the detailed process of applying for large downtown revitalization grants.
Linda Hall, a community development specialist from Poggemeyer Design Group, of Bowling Green, informed a Celina City Council committee on the quantities of federal Housing and Urban Development dollars available through Ohio’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
Celina could attract millions of revitalization grant dollars, with relatively small levels of city general fund money required, Hall explained. By coordinating the public and private projects already planned, Celina could tally the value of those projects as match money to attract CDBG funds.
The CDBG revitalization grant program has three options: a planning grant with $15,000 available, a revitalization grant with $400,000 available and a “target of opportunity” grant without a maximum limit. Each grant phase requires a 100 percent match from the community.
Budgeted in the 2004 appropriations for Celina is $15,000 for the planning phase of the grant, which if approved would provide an additional $15,000 to create planning documents needed to apply for the revitalization grant.
City council is scheduled to consider the first reading of the appropriations ordinance Monday night.
The $30,000 in planning funds would be used to create a downtown plan using market studies, building surveys, building design guidelines and input from a revitalization committee, which would need to be created.
When the time comes to apply for the larger grants, numerous public and private projects can be grouped into one grant request. The grant can fund nearly any building upgrade or public improvement benefiting the downtown district, Hall explained, using private roof replacements and city sidewalk work as an example.
Using the ideas laid out by Hall, a group of private building owners could apply for funds for exterior facade work, roof work or interior upgrades totaling $400,000. The $400,000 match funds required could be accounted for using a city street light project or park or road improvements underway at the same time. Match funds can also come in the form of small donations or other concurrent projects, even a community group’s labor in promoting the downtown can be counted.
The range of building upgrades that qualify for funding is vast, Hall explained, with seemingly only interior painting and carpeting excluded, unless apartments units are being improved.
Hall spoke of a village which used an Ohio Department of Transportation project that was of no cost to the municipality to account for hundreds of thousands of match dollars.
“It’s like saying ‘OK state, we’re going to take your dollars and match this with your other dollars’,” Hall said. “It’s a wonderful program.”
The CDBG revitalization grant program has been in existence since the mid-1980s, and Celina applied for and received funds for downtown improvements in one of the first years of the program, Safety-Service Director Mike Sovinski said. Some of those funds were used to place tree boxes in downtown sidewalks, which were later removed.
The goal of the federal program is to benefit persons with low-to-moderate income (LMI) with jobs or housing or to eliminate areas of slums or blighted conditions. Despite the harshness in the terms, Hall said the program is subjective enough to allow each community to determine the thresholds of what is substandard and standard.
Poggmeyer Design Group handled five of the seven revitalization grants awarded this year and has a 100 percent award record when all the correct measures are taken, Hall said.
“We have to start putting the puzzle together now if we want to make something like this happen in the next couple of years,” Canary said Friday.


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The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822


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