Reuse program to get a review

April 13, 2009
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A funding source that has played a vital role in the revival of downtown properties will be reviewed.

Members of the Downtown Development Authority gave their OK last week for the board’s Incentive Committee to look at possible changes to the Building Reuse Incentive Program. The DDA started the program in 1995 when roughly 70 downtown buildings were either vacant or on the verge of being empty.

“The program itself was never intended to be a major funding source for a particular project, but rather as support for more conventional investments,” said Eric Pratt, a DDA planner, who called the program the DDA’s most successful.

“As a result, BRIP funds are used to overcome specific barriers toward the reuse or upgrading of an existing building, including façade improvements, barrier-free access, utilities upgrades and fire-safety systems,” said Pratt.

The DDA has set aside $200,000 every year for the program; the maximum award is $50,000. If all $200,000 isn’t awarded in a year, the non-awarded dollars can be carried into the following year. The building at 62 Commerce Ave. SW received the first award in 1996 for $50,000.

“Over time, we’ve received over 90 applications,” said Pratt.

Since the program’s inception, the DDA has made 60 awards totaling $2.78 million and has distributed $2.28 million of those funds. The funding for six recent awards hasn’t been dispersed as yet. The 60 awards supported building renovations that cost more than $118 million.

“In other words, for every one dollar the DDA invests into the BRIP program, the DDA is able to leverage 45 private dollars,” said Pratt. “So the program is having the desired effect that it was intended to have.”

The program’s success rate has been fairly phenomenal.

“There are only two or three buildings out of about 70 that we’ve invested in that haven’t been completed,” said Jay Fowler, DDA executive director.

“It raises the question: Are we allocating enough funding to the program?” said Pratt.

The committee is expected to review the program’s level of funding, make a clarification of the type of activities that are eligible to receive funds, and make a decision on how to target the most desirable projects. DDA members asked for a review of BRIP in January.

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