Strasburg moving forward on downtown grant effort

Strasburg might need to spend some local money to get much more that could spur downtown revitalization efforts.

Economic Development and Planning Manager Kimberly Murray updated Town Council at a work session Tuesday on plans to apply for up to $1 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program. Money would go to start programs outlined in the Downtown Strasburg Revitalization Implementation Project.

The grant program requires Town Council to hold a second public hearing on the application. Council plans to hold the hearing with the resolution of support for the application on March 10. The town must submit its application by March 25.

“They’re definitely supportive of moving the application forward so they … gave us feedback on everything to keep moving forward,” Murray said Wednesday.

Even if the town meets the requirements with its application, the state expects Strasburg to come up with a match of up to $300,000. That number is not yet set in stone and the state doesn’t require a specific percentage as a local match. Rather, the state requires a match that makes the project competitive, Murray explained.

The application divides the potential funding from the grant into four parts: project administration costs and marketing/logo/branding development; façade improvement grant program; a revolving loan program; and the public park, enhanced parking lot and connecting trail.

Mayor Tim Taylor said Wednesday that council has been pleased with the projects outlined in the application process.

“It’s one of those situations where we give a little bit and we can get a whole lot more in return,” Taylor said.

In the $1 million grant, $300,000 would be allocated for capital improvements. If improvements cost, for example, $600,000, then the town would need to come up with the additional $300,000 to cover the total, Murray explained. The local match comes out to about 33 percent of the $1 million. To put it another way, the town would invest $300,000 and leverage $1 million, Murray said.

The town will leverage money from other groups and funds awarded for the Streetscape Enhancement Project through the Virginia Department of Transportation. Organizations wishing to participate can donate money to help leverage the funds. The town can work with People Inc. to administer the revolving loan program. The nonprofit group has provided this service to other communities. People Inc. also is willing to provide its own matching funds up to $25,000 per loan, Murray said.

“There are other ways that funds can be raised toward the match that the state would look favorably on as well,” Murray said.

Council might consider one or a combination of the following ways to come up with the town’s $300,000 match:

• Combine the downtown project with the Gateway Trail along U.S. 11 to the Food Lion Shopping Center and borrow a total of $800,000. Strasburg would pay off the debt over 15 years beginning in fiscal 2017;

• Borrow from the town’s reserves and repay the amount over five years;

• Increase the real estate tax rate by 2.5 cents to bring in $325,000 over two years. The effort, possibly called Pennies for Parks, would cost a taxpayer who owns property valued at $200,000 about $25 per year.

None of these funding options would go into effect until fiscal 2017 at the earliest, Murray said.

Through various public meetings and brainstorming sessions, residents and property owners have voiced support for the development of the open space behind the former Brill grocery store on King Street, owned by the town. Likewise, the public has raised support for a plan to redesign the town parking lot off Washington Street.

Town officials reached out to business and property owners about the revitalization effort and to gauge interest in the programs the funds would help establish, specifically the façade improvement grant initiative.

“We need to have some support from those folks that they might be interested in that program to submit with the application,” Murray said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or