At Monday’s Grand Rapids City Council meeting, Economic Development Director, Rob Mattei delivered a presentation on the grant that his department is pursuing through the Small Cities Development Program (SCDP). The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) administers the SCDP on behalf of the federal government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for rehabilitation projects.
Mattei said his office partnered with the Itasca County HRA and submitted a pre-application to DEED in November of 2016 seeking funding through the SCDP program and on December 12, 2016 DEED invited the City to submit a full application for six commercial rehabilitation projects, thirty residential projects, and streetscape enhancement funds. Mattei said his office would be submitting the full application on Feb. 23.
In order for residents to qualify for the funding, one of three qualifications must be met: Projects must benefit people of low to moderate incomes, or they must help to eliminate slum and blight conditions, or they must eliminate an urgent threat to a public health and safety issue. Residential units would need two or more major improvements to qualify, and commercial properties would need more repair than would normally be provided through routine maintenance.
Finally, commercial and residential rehabilitation projects would require the owners to occupy the building for at least 10 years after completion of the work. Rental units would require the building owner to retain the building for at least seven years.
Mattei said that each of the six commercial rehabilitation projects could be funded up to a maximum of $32,000. Up to 20 owner-occupied units and 10 rental units could be funded at a cost not to exceed $22,400 per unit. Part of the request is for $137,500 to be used for building a trail under the streetscape provision of the grant. The trail would be built in the vicinity of the library and the proposed pedestrian bridge.
With respect to owner-occupied and rental projects, Mattei identified the areas being targeted for the grant monies as a portion of southeast Grand Rapids. The commercial area being targeted is the central business district as well as the Highway 2 corridor between 10th Avenue Northeast and 5th Avenue Northwest.
Mattei said that the city has been participating in the SCDP since 2009. The city’s most recent activity under provisions of the program was in 2014 when the city administered a grant in the amount of $615,552 for both commercial and residential rehabilitation projects.
Mattei said that he expects DEED to announce the successful small city applicants in May of this year, and that funding agreements would be drafted in June. If successful, the city would then solicit applications from residents and businesses in June and July. Project bidding and construction startups would follow in August.
At the conclusion of Mattei’s remarks, Mayor Dale Adams invited the council to ask questions.
Councilor Dale Christy asked how long the funds would be available if they weren’t all accounted for in the summer of 2017. Mattei said that it was typically three years.
Councilor Rick Blake inquired about the level of interest in the program. Mattei said that he thought there was an increase in interest in the program because it was starting to become more recognized. “Business owners and residents are seeing and knowing of their neighbors taking advantage of it.”
Councilor Bill Zeige wondered whether a business that was adjacent to but outside of the target area might petition the city for consideration. Mattei said that could happen if there were not enough applicants but it would not happen within the first year of the grant cycle. The council unanimously voted to submit the full SCDP application to DEED.