Gardiner officials are starting to give shape to a grant program that’s aimed at improving building facades in the city’s historic downtown and eliminating blight.

“We would like to see the downtown thrive because that’s good for the city,” Facade Committee member Kate Carnes said.

The next step in a process that started earlier this year is a public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. on Dec. 21, where information about the program is expected to be presented.

The source of the $140,000 award is the Microenterprise Assistance Grant Program, which is geared to helping small businesses find innovative solutions for problems they encounter and for facade improvements.

Program applicants may seek funds for projects like improvements to storefronts; restoration of historic windows, doors and trim; removal of modernization efforts; paint removal from brick or stone visible from the street level; or accessibility and safety projects.

Applicants may seek grants up to $25,000 per funding round with a $50,000 cap if a second grant round is needed. All projects require a one-to-one match.

“If we have a $50,000 improvement project, the applicant can pay half and the city can pay half,” said Patrick Wright, economic development coordinator for Gardiner. “Or if an applicant needs to do roof work and window work, the roof work they pay for can be a match for the window work.”

Because these grant funds come from federal sources, Wright said the city will put approved projects out to bid and pay the contractors directly.

Gardiner officials submitted an application for the grant to the state Department of Economic and Community Development in March after getting the go-ahead from the City Council. State economic development officials initially said Gardiner would not receive funding, but later reversed their decision.

In August, the City Council voted to accept the funds, and in September, it created a committee to oversee the administration of the grant funds and appointed members to the committee.

In the meantime, city officials have issued a request for qualifications for architectural services to identify an architect or firm that could help building owners with appropriate restoration, repair or replacement of facades in the historic district. The deadline for the qualifications is Jan. 2.

A mandatory meeting for those interested in applying for funds has been set for 6 p.m. on Jan. 25 in City Council chambers at City Hall. The application period is expected to be open for a month, and the city’s facade committee will consider the applications.

“The hope is that the project funds will be available as early as April,” Wright said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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