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Strasburg seeking downtown grant money

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg can make a strong showing when it applies for the rest of a downtown revitalization grant, a state official said Thursday.

A management team looking at how the town can use planning grant money from the state Department of Housing and Community Development met with an agency official Thursday. Representatives of various facets of Strasburg make up the team who heard from Doug Ellis, community development specialist for the agency. Ellis pointed out to the team of more than a dozen people that they had taken many of the steps needed to make a good application.

Much of the discussion at the meeting reiterated issues brought up at previous team sessions: how Strasburg can attract and keep businesses, use of amenities such as open space and initiatives already in place that help the town.

Ellis pointed out that the Downtown Streetscape project underway should look good on Strasburg's application for more money. The town's inclusion of the public in its planning efforts and the team's makeup also gives Strasburg an edge, Ellis said.

But as Town Manager Judson Rex pointed out Thursday after the meeting, the process involves a lot of paperwork for the applicants.

"It's a challenge to get through all of it," Rex said. "But I think from the state's perspective they really view it as a vetting process for them to make sure that the community they are investing in has the administrative capacity and sophistication to execute a full grant amount.

Rex said he has experience with the process.

"It's a test almost for the community to pass in order to get more money," Rex said. "I think they're impressed with our capacity to move forward."

Strasburg has been working with the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission on the initiative to help revitalize its downtown. The town applied for a $30,000 planning grant through the Department of Housing and Community Development and received $5,000 of the award to cover a survey of downtown properties and other initial work. While the department determined that the town qualifies for the remaining funds, Strasburg still must apply for the rest of the money.

Rex explained that the planning grant should allow the town to study how Strasburg would create programs for business and property owners such as micro-loans and fa├žade improvements. The town would use the money to determine the parameters of the program, potential participants, the benefits of investing in open space.

"So it's really just kind of prepping us to make the leap and get that big chunk of money that we can put toward something," Rex said. "It is a lot of red tape."

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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