City To Use $800,000 In Stimulus Funds To Fight Commercial Blight

July 24, 2009|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

Baltimore development officials plan to use $800,000 in federal stimulus money for grants to help commercial property owners in blighted neighborhoods renovate building facades.

The city expects to use Community Development Block Grant funds, made available through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to expand a facade grant program that has been used throughout the city, including along Pennsylvania Avenue.

The projects must be in mainly low- to moderate-income neighborhoods with high commercial vacancy rates and should help increase and retain jobs, Nancy Jordan-Howard, chief operating officer of the Baltimore Development Corp., said Thursday during a presentation to BDC's board.

Development officials have identified rundown commercial districts in city neighborhoods or areas including Belair-Edison, West Baltimore Street, Pigtown, Highlandtown, Bayview and Brooklyn.

BDC President M.J. "Jay" Brodie said the city has not yet determined how many neighborhoods or properties could ultimately receive grants. Projects must be completed within 18 months.

Officials hope to focus on renovating contiguous properties rather than scattered sites in neighborhoods, Howard said.

Mayor Sheila Dixon has said facade improvement grants, administered through the Baltimore Main Streets program, have helped start 300 new companies in the eight Main Street communities, including Federal Hill, Fells Point and Belair-Edison.

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