Archive for Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Help available for downtown improvements

June 18, 2003

Baldwin doesn't have to improve its downtown or revitalize the community alone. Marilyn Graham said assistance can be provided if the town wants to make improvements.

Graham, who is with the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing, told the Baldwin City Council and a handful of downtown business owners and residents Monday that there are two grant programs, as part of the Community Development Block Grant program, the city can pursue.

The downtown revitalization program offers a maximum $200,000 grant.

"What the program wants to do, if you want to revitalize downtown, is to make it more economically viable," she said.

The grant, she said, which would require a dollar for dollar match from the community, could be used for public improvements or be set up as a revolving loan account so businesses could borrow it to make their own improvements.

The other option the city could pursue is a comprehensive development program, which could allow the city access of up to $1 million.

The money, which would also require a match in funds, wouldn't be earmarked for just downtown improvements, she said. Instead, it would be used for a larger need of the community.

"It all ties in to address a need," she said. "It has to fit together to address an issue, to address a problem of the community."

There is another option Baldwin can pursue in getting assistance in downtown beautification. Jean Stenson, from the National Main Street program, said not a lot of money is provided with the Main Street program, but instead the program spends time getting economic interest back into the community.

"We work to get private investment back into the downtown," Stenson said.

The Main Street program is an ongoing program, she said, and Baldwin could expect around a five-year commitment.

The program is divided into four parts -- organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring. Committees comprised of community members are formed, and with the program's help, work to address the downtown's needs and how to get private investment active again.

Both Graham and Stenson said the downtown revitalization programs are something Baldwin could start pursuing over the next year.

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