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Downtown Hagerstown grant plan gets informal nod

June 11, 2013|BY HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council Tuesday gave its informal nod of approval to allocate $1.2 million to a grant program aimed at partnering the city with private developers to foster commercial redevelopment in the City Center and outside the urban core.

The “first-third” grant program, which comprises a portion of the larger-scale grant program Invest Hagerstown, is expected to be formally approved at a June 18 council meeting, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.

The $1.2 million will come from the city’s general fund reserve, according to city documents. A total of $1 million would be allocated for approved downtown projects, while an additional $200,000 would be for projects outside the City Center.

Commercial grants in the urban core would require a 2-to-1 matching process with amounts from $150,000 to $250,000.

For example, if a developer contributed a private investment of $400,000, the city would put up $200,000, making the total investment in the project $600,000.

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And commercial grants outside the City Center would require a 2-to-1 matching process with amounts from $25,000 to $50,000.

For example, if a developer contributed a private investment of $50,000, he or she would be eligible to receive $25,000 from the city, making the total investment in the project $75,000.

The program aims to “inspire and enable significant redevelopment, both citywide and in the urban core, reusing and repurposing existing vacant and underutilized properties,” while also creating the opportunity for new jobs and increasing the value of Hagerstown’s commercial and mixed-use properties, according to city documents. 

“We certainly have plenty of need for the rehabilitation of some large, old structures,” Mayor David S. Gysberts said following the meeting at City Hall. “The idea behind the amounts was that we want investments significant enough to create the visible change, to create jobs and to create the kind of investment that will increase property values that will also help the city.”

Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said the project is “really an experiment.”

Zimmerman agreed, but said the city has done “some of this on a smaller scale.”

With $1.5 million in excess reserve funding earmarked for Invest Hagerstown, in addition to the $1.2 million going toward commercial grants as part of the first-third program, $300,000 remains, which was originally slated for residential grants.

City officials had proposed allocating $300,000 for no-income restrictions grants of up to $10,000 for homeowners, who would make a 20 percent match, to make renovations in pre-1960 homes.

However, that portion of Invest Hagerstown is “back to the drawing boards,” Downtown Manager Andrew Sargent said Tuesday.

At a June 4 meeting at City Hall, council members questioned the residential proposal, noting they would prefer the money instead be used to promote “neighborhood stability” and to reoccupy vacant homes, rather than offering aid to a select portion of the population that could afford renovations.

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