PINELLAS PARK – A two-pronged grant program, one for the beautification of the city’s downtown redevelopment area and the other for handicapped accessibility, was unveiled Aug. 23 at a City Council agenda session.
The redevelopment area on Park Boulevard between 66th Street and U.S. 19 is aimed at encouraging businesses to upgrade facades and improve overall aesthetics.
“Only businesses and apartment buildings in the redevelopment area are eligible to participate in the program,” Bob Bray, community planning director, said.
The projects received good grades from council members, though in some cases not enthusiastically.
“I’m all for anything that improves the business district,” Councilman Rick Butler said. “I believe this will be an asset to the redevelopment area.”
The program will match up to $10,000 per street frontage for restyling and landscape improvements.
“The money is available on a first-come, first-served basis,” Bray said. “The matching funds will be issued after the improvements are completed.”
No funds will be granted for projects under $1,000.
Eligible improvements must “materially alter” the appearance of facades or signs. Among the improvements covered include exterior lighting, windows, entryways, exterior finishes, secured benches, new awning or canopies and signs.
Resurfacing, resealing and repainting parking lots are eligible under certain conditions, particularly if the lot is clearly visible from the street.
Eligible landscaping projects include exterior planters, perennials, tree and shrub planting along with mulching and irrigation.
“The program will help improve the appearances of participating buildings,” Bray said.
In the second application program, up to $3,000 will be made available to encourage businesses in the redevelopment area to improve disabled accessibility.
Projects must meet standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The enhancements to buildings would greatly enhance accessibility and convenience for disabled citizens,” Bray said.
Federal matching funds were virtually abandoned because of all the strings attached to obtain funding. The local plan would be a 50/50 match up to $3,000 for such things as railings, ramps and washroom improvements.
Eligibility for both programs requires approval of an application package from the city’s community planning division. The application must provide proof that the business is within the redevelopment area, detailed drawings or proposed improvements, costs, three bids from contractors and two color photographs of the eligible facade.
“Projects deemed to be routine maintenance will be rejected,” Bray said. “The city staff will contact applicants by mail if their plans are approved or rejected.”
The city will pay the matching funds only after the project is completed and inspected.