Archive for Thursday, September 30, 2004

New grant opportunity for downtown redevelopment

September 30, 2004

Downtown redevelopment is revitalized with a grant opportunity the city of Eudora is pursuing to improve the 700 block of Main Street.
The state-distributed funds raised from gasoline taxes could help the city add decorative lighting, brick sidewalks and other amenities to Eudora's historic business district.
"It's a good chance to come up with some free money," said City Administrator Mike Yanez.
In the best-case scenario, Eudora could receive as much as 80 percent of the project's cost, which could run as much as $500,000. Moreover, this grant doesn't require matching funds from the private sector, as did a community development block grant the city pursued last year but which stalemated largely because of the demands put on downtown business and property owners.
The Eudora City Council decided Monday night to pursue the grant money, but Yanez said the opportunity came with caveats. Although the grant application is due Nov. 8, the grant winners won't be announced until May 2005, which would delay streetscape upgrades into construction in 2006.
The city and county's jointly-financed project to upgrade the infrastructure of Main Street, including the 700 block proposed for redevelopment, is slated for 2005. City engineer Dan Harden said future work on the sidewalks and other streetscape elements could cosmetically damage the new two-inch asphalt.
"It becomes a construction site, so it doesn't look as good afterward," Harden said.
The City Council decided to ask county leaders to defer their funding until after the decorative redevelopment would be complete. However, work on the storm sewein the 900 block of Main Street would continue as planned.
Harden said the county was considering paying 29 percent of the infrastructure costs on Main Street from 10th Street to near the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks, an increase from the 10 percent it offered in July. The 29 percent was arrived at by considering the percentage cost of maintaining a county road, which Main Street is, at status quo, as is the county's custom.
Even with the grant to help pay for decorative improvements downtown, the city would still be responsible for design costs. Although a preliminary picture of the redeveloped streetscape has been presented, Yanez said the concept would need refining for the competitive grant application process.
"We're going to have to put together a pretty package," Yanez said.
The city would also have to "forward fund" the construction with reimbursement from the grant coming later.
Yanez also said the recently-approved 2005 city budget included money set aside for debt payments on the project assuming a 15-year debt service.
In such a competitive grant, Yanez said community support would be paramount in propelling Eudora's success. He said the city would request letters of support from those in the community like downtown merchants and members of the Eudora Chamber of Commerce.
Such community members would also be sought for an ad hoc committee to help engineers refine the proposed streetscape. Yanez said that would mean deciding details like the style of light fixtures and the colors of trash cans.
"The more public support you can show, the better chance we have at the competitive grant," he said.

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