Town sets meeting for façade program

FRONT ROYAL – The town plans to try its hand with a popular effort aimed at sprucing up business fronts.

Front Royal’s Department of Planning and Zoning has invited residents, business owners, real estate agents and bank representatives to a public information meeting on the façade improvement program at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Town Hall, 102 E. Main St.

The town and the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission are developing a program aimed at providing financial and technical-design assistance to property owners of commercial storefronts in the downtown area. Other localities in the region also have implemented or are in the process of starting similar programs.

Department officials plan to give an overview of the draft program, talk about how the initiative can help participants and answer questions. Kathy Frazier, an architect with Frazier Architects, plans to speak at the event.

Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp said Tuesday that Front Royal and Edinburg received planning grants for this year and partnered with the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission to work on their local efforts. Planning grants are awarded as the first step before localities can receive more money for the program.

The next step for Front Royal would be to seek an implementation grant, Camp said. The town plans to submit a Community Development Block Grant application to the state in March 2017 to help fund improvements in the downtown area.

“We’re in that yearlong process and it’s broken down into different components that’s gonna make up this overall revitalization plan for the downtown,” Camp said.

The town conducted tasks earlier in the process, such as taking inventory of vacant and/or dilapidated buildings, to show the need for additional funds.

The designated area contains several dozen parcels. Any grant awarded must be applied to a designated project area for the purpose of eliminating blight and blighted influences; improving public infrastructure or tourism assets; addressing economic blight. Part of the money would go to assisting commercial property owners in the designated project area with rehabilitating the outside of their buildings and making other exterior improvements aimed at enhancing the downtown environment.

Under the program, two properties will be selected to receive free architectural services with existing planning grant funds. All participants will be first in line for consideration of future implementation funds.

The department sent a letter dated Aug. 8 to real estate agents and financial institutions as an invitation to the event. The letter states that the program is intended to help real estate agents attract and retain quality property buyers and renters; promote marketability of the business area; make streets more appealing and inviting to potential buyers; and provide another incentive to potential buyers.

The letter states that the program is intended to help bankers work directly with commercial property owners; promote products and services directly to property and business owners; make streets more appealing to potential clients; and provide another incentive to potential buyers.

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