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More money available for downtown building upgrades

May 21, 2004|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Last year, only three property owners applied for up to $2,500 in free money to spend on repairs and renovations to the fronts of their downtown Waynesboro commercial buildings.

This year, the amount of money available has been raised to $10,000 per property and borough officials are hoping more building owners will take advantage of the program. The money comes from state and federal funding sources.

"The borough has $90,000 (in available funds) and we want to give it away," Councilman John Cook, chairman of the council's Downtown Revitalization and Finance Committee, said at a council meeting earlier this week. "We hope the increase will generate more activity."

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The one catch in applying for a facade grant is that property owners have to match it.

The program is aimed at achieving the council's overall goal of revitalizing the borough's downtown business center, said James Fisher, ad hoc chairman of the council's Design Review Committee. That committee reviews all facade grant applications.

Only owners of commercial or mixed commercial and residential buildings - like many downtown buildings with first-floor retail spaces and apartments above - are eligible for facade grants, Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said.

Hamberger said his office has received calls from potential applicants since the amount of money was increased to $10,000.

Fisher said Thursday that building owners should look at the grant program as a way to improve their property through phases by applying for grants over several years.

"The application form is simple," Fisher said. They are available in Hamberger's office in the Borough Hall.

In general, the guidelines say property owners can't violate the original design of their buildings and have to maintain their historic integrity, he said.

In early April, Fisher and other members of Downtown Waynesboro Inc., a volunteer organization of merchants and residents, did an inventory of all buildings in the downtown business core. Their research covered the age, architecture and condition of the buildings.

Fisher said the age of downtown buildings ranges from late 18th century to the 1990s with most built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The facade survey was done at the request of the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, the state agency that will grant $175,000 to the borough to set up a full-time professional downtown manager's position over the next five years.

The manager would work to retain existing businesses and recruit new ones, run promotions and events, lobby for improvements and generally promote the downtown area.

The borough will have to come up with a $90,000 match in cash and in-kind services. The borough council has appropriated $10,000 for the project.

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