Money is available to increase the curbside appeal of Carrabelle businesses.
The Carrabelle Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has a mission to reduce and eliminate blight within the designated redevelopment area or district. To that end, they are offering grants to spiff up the business district. A brochure and application forms for the program were debuted at a CRA meeting held Tuesday, June 17.
The Community Reinvestment Act part of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1977 is a federal law designed to encourage commercial banks and savings associations to help meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. The Community Reinvestment Act requires federal regulators to assess the record of each bank or thrift in helping to fulfill its obligations to lend to low and moderate income borrowers. This record will then be used in evaluating applications for future approval of bank mergers, charters, acquisitions, branch openings and deposit facilities.
A CRA designates a district in need of revitalization. A baseline of tax revenue is set at the time of designation. From that date forward, any increase in property tax revenue, above the baseline, goes into a fund to be used to improve structures within the district.
Carrabelle established their CRA in 1993. Since then CRA, funds have been used toe upgrade public areas with landscaping and sidewalks.
Now, the city is making CRA funds available as grants to upgrade existing buildings to improve appearance and environment, improve functionality, eliminate code violations, and help fill vacant or underused spaces within the commercial district.
According to a press release concerning the grants, “The CRA seeks to increase “pride of ownership” and to get “feet on the street”. Crowded sidewalks and occupied store-fronts indicate healthy economic activity and a safe environment; a place for people to come and enjoy.”
There is no fee to apply for a CRA grant; however, making application does not entitle the applicant to funding.
Application must be made prior to September 2014 to be included in the next funding cycle if approved.
The grant seeking process begins with a pre-application conference with CRA Director Courtney Millender to determine eligibility. Next, an application must be filed by the owner(s) of the property.
Please submit application and all documents as a complete package. Incomplete packets will be returned. A checklist will be provided.
CRA staff will review and approve or deny the application packets in the order in which they are received.
Once approved for funding, the grant recipient and CRA Director shall sign a “Carrabelle Commercial Building Façade Grant Agreement.” that describes the obligations and limitations of the grant award.
Next, all required plan review and building permits must be approved and issued.
When this is done, the project may proceed with the CRA obligated to reimburse costs as approved in the agreement.
Any modifications to final plans will require review and written approval from the CRA Director and board.
Once the work is complete, the grant recipient will be responsible to arrange for any required on-site inspection by the applicable city or county officials as well as the CRA Director. Improvements will be documented and compared with what was proposed at the time of application. If any discrepancies are noted, the CRA has the right to request the discrepancies be corrected.
Recipient also submits written proof of payment for all improvements.
Interested parties may request an application for grant funding from the CRA Director.
In order to promote the revitalization of the commercial core of the redevelopment district, the current 2014-2015 grant program funding will be limited to properties with no identified code violations, unless the proposed improvements serve to correct violations.
Properties must pay taxes to the county and have no signage or structures that violate existing land development or other code regulations, unless the violations will be corrected by the work described in the grant.
Properties current and proposed future use must conform to the zoning map and must be legally permitted commercial activities.
Occupants must have maintained all required licensing to operate, as well as being current on all city utility accounts.
For qualifying projects, expenses are eligible for an 80 percent grant rebate. The maximum amount of a proposed project is $20,000, thus the maximum grant-funding amount is capped at $16,000.
Awards are currently limited to one award, per parcel, per CRA Fiscal Year (October thru September). Improved areas must be visible from the street or other public space. Labor and material costs that may be covered include professional design and engineering services related to exterior qualifying façade improvements.
Types of eligible improvements include removal or restoration of deteriorated or sub-standard exterior building material; masonry work or new stucco, brick or repairs; exterior painting; new or replacement windows, doors and woodwork; removal or replacement of signs, awnings, landscaping and fencing. Paving can be replaced. Roof repair or replacement may be included.
Grants may be used to bring buildings in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Millender said information about the grants has already been posted on FaceBook and the city’s website. “Funds will not be available until after the city’s budget hearings but we wanted to go ahead and accept applications so we could get a feel for how much many to set aside for the grants,” she said.