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DDA considers residential grants

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Anne Gentry, Alpena Downtown Development Authority executive director, presents to the DDA board her monthly update.

ALPENA — For years, the Alpena Downtown Development Authority has awarded facade grants to commercial business owners who want to make improvements to the exterior of their buildings.

The DDA board voted to have its designs and promotions committee create a new program that would allow facade grants to residential property owners.

Currently, the DDA offers grants to commercial businesses, which can range from $500 to $10,000 with the property owner committing to contribute a 50% match.

City Manager Rachel Smolinksi said she would like to see the new program mirror that as much as possible.

Over the coming weeks, the committee will set guidelines, rules, and goals for the program and the budget committee will consider what the allocation into the program could be.

President Mike Mahler said he believes the program could be constructed and in front of the full board for consideration in January.

Residential property owners in the DDA, including those in the newly expanded area would likely both be included in the new program if it is launched, DDA Executive Director Anne Gentry said.

Last month, the Alpena Municipal Council approved expanding the DDA district’s boundaries down Chisholm Street to the George Washington Bridge near the MyMichigan Medical Center Alpena and further down 2nd Avenue. Alpena County and the Alpena Community College also approved the expansion because they would have to surrender a portion of their tax capture.

Anne Gentry, DDA executive director, said making the facade grants available to residents who want some help making improvements to their homes or apartment buildings could benefit others beyond the property owner.

“This could be a direct benefit from living in the district. People could add new windows, siding, and things that improve their homes,” Gentry said. “There is a huge beautification element to this, but also has a positive impact on property values for that property and the neighboring ones. That also has a positive effect on property taxes for the city and county.”

Currently, Gentry said the commercial property grants offered now can’t be used for landscaping, but it may be considered for residential grants.

“This would make things a little more flexible on what type of improvements are eligible,” she said.

The board also intends to begin accepting applications for commercial grant applications for projects next year. The allocations will come in two rounds. The first deadline for funding requests for facade projects is in February and the second in May.

The amount of funding for the grants will be significant, as the DDA has allocated $400,000 that it received from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and an additional $70,000 from its general fund.

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