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City officials present proposals to extend rent relief for businesses

August 16, 2012

City of Hagerstown economic development officials presented three proposed amendments to a Partners in Economic Progress, or PEP, program incentive Tuesday, potentially extending rent relief opportunities to more businesses.

Christy Blake, the city’s downtown recruitment and retention manager, told the Hagerstown City Council that department staff have been looking for ways to add incentives for businesses through the PEP program.

Currently, the city provides a 50-percent matching grant to reduce annual rent payments on nonresidential space on upper floors in the City Center for new or existing businesses moving into PEP-approved buildings.

Blake proposed a modification to the list of eligible businesses that may take advantage of the Upper Floor Commercial Space Rent Relief Grant, making it broader to include more business types under a single title and allowing medical offices to gain incentives.

Another proposed change would provide a 50-percent matching grant to reduce rent payments on first floor, non-storefront commercial spaces in PEP-approved buildings, meaning space in commercial buildings that have a common entrance for all interior tenants and do not have their own display windows, Blake said.

The third change would extend the rent relief grant program from two years to three years, paying 50 percent in the first year, 35 percent in the second and 15 percent in the third year.

Blake said this would help businesses gradually prepare to begin having to pay full rent rather than a steep dropoff after two years.

Blake said she estimates that nine more businesses each year could be assisted through the PEP program with the proposed alterations.

The five-member city council did not express any major objections to Blake’s proposal, and it likely will appear on a future council agenda for approval.

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— C.J. Lovelace

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