Beautification grant program passes city muster
The goal is to increase the visual appeal of downtown business areas
Beautification can be an ugly word to many Valdez business owners, but the city council unanimously approved a resolution a week ago Monday to help private enterprise improve the esthetics of downtown properties.
"This is an important part of the overall strategy to re-invigorate the downtown business district," the council's agenda statement said.
The as-yet-unfunded program will offer matching grants to businesses in the downtown area that will pay half the costs – up to $10,000 per building – for beautification projects such as new paint, landscaping or the removal of obsolete signage or old Connexes.
"This is a program that the beautification committee has been working on in conjunction with the effort to develop public places," City Manager John Hozey told council, stating that the program will incentivize the private sector to do the same.
The program, as passed by council, has two stated goals: to improve the overall quality of facades in order to attract more local residents and visitors to shop, eat, and do business in downtown Valdez and to encourage and provide incentive for property/business owners to reinvest in the core downtown area.
Hozey said the program is modeled on programs offered by several other municipalities from the Lower 48.
"We weren't really reinventing the wheel," he said.
Funding for the program is set to be included in the city's 2015 budget.
"The task force will probably be asking for $100,000." Hozey said when questioned by council member Mike Wells about the projected cost.
The program states that "eligible buildings must be used for commercial, non-profit, and/or mixed use purposes, and must be located in the core downtown area of Valdez. The core downtown area is bordered by Galena Street to the south, Pioneer Drive to the north, Meals Avenue to the east, and Hazelet Avenue to the west."
Before unanimously approving the plan, Hozey asked the council to amend the program by expanding the parameters of the business area targeted in the plan, which now includes businesses located along the Richardson Highway from Meals Ave. to Crooked Creek.
"It was an unintentional oversight on our part" that a portion of the core business district was not included in the plan as presented to council Hozey said.
"We neglected the entrance of the city," he explained. "It's all along the same corridor."
There will be three windows of opportunity for business owners to submit grant proposals to the selection committee, Jan. 15, Feb. 15 and March 15. Detailed forms, which are available to see now on the city council's agenda statement for Aug. 18, must be completed and returned to city hall by the stated deadlines for consideration.
Valdez Star photo
Numerous properties in the downtown area could stand a makeover, including the building the Valdez Star calls home.
Council member Nate Smith asked about the makeup of the selection committee, which will be responsible for vetting proposed projects for grants before council approves it.
"It would be the beautification task force," Hozey said, which will "make the initial recommendations."
Costs covered by the matching grant include materials, appropriately licensed third party vendors and/or contractors, architectural and engineering services and even city fees and permits directly related to the project.
Projects will not be funded retroactively or started before the grant is approved. It must also be completed within six months or the grant could be forfeited.
"I think it's something that's definitely needed," council member Ruth Knight said before voting.