Some commercial buildings in Zephyrhills are about to become more attractive.
The Zephyrhills City Council, on March 28, approved the Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Agency’s Matching Façade Rehabilitation Grant Program.
The $10,000 grant aims to encourage the restoration and preservation of commercial buildings within the CRA district — a 520-acre defined district that essentially encompasses the center spine of the city, generally between Hercules Park to C Avenue, and from Zephyr Park to 17th Street.
The program offers up to a maximum of $2,500 in grant money, but the applicant must spend at least twice the amount of the grant.
The program’s goal is to encourage complete rehabilitation of the structures.
The funds can be used for specific improvements, including a new coat of paint, awnings, doors, windows, exterior lighting and approved siding.
The one-time grant is “first come, first served.”
The grant is part of an effort to eliminate “blighting influences and further deterioration of commercial properties within the CRA district,” according to program documents.
“The CRA’s job is to increase the value of the properties, and therefore, the taxable value,” said Gail Hamilton, CRA director for the city of Zephyrhills.
“In looking at the buildings…it’s going to be city staff that’s going to be doing this, not just CRA staff, but also the building department, as well as the planning department,” she added.
To be eligible for the grant, all property taxes have to be current. Funds will not be provided to a property that has outstanding tax liens, Hamilton said. The CRA director also noted that nonprofits are not eligible to receive funding.
“This is tax dollars, so the CRA has to know you’ve done the work, and once the work has been done, and you prove to the city that you’ve paid the bill in full, then we will reimburse you,” she said.
Hamilton said the grant is not to be used for building maintenance, such as interior improvements, electrical work (unless related to signage or exterior lighting), roof and chimney repairs, or the installation of aluminum or vinyl siding.
“The building must be structurally sound,” Hamilton said, adding the properties must meet the minimum building and life safety codes. “We’re looking at the façade of the building — not if its roof is good. If your roof isn’t structurally sound, then you have a whole lot more problems than just the façade.
“If next year, you decide you don’t like the awning that you put up this year, you can’t come back to the CRA and ask for another grant,” she added.
The façade rehabilitation grant is a follow-up of the CRA’s $10,000 Residential Paint Grant Program, which was approved at last month’s council meeting.
To create an incentive for residents and businesses to participate in both programs, the CRA recently partnered with the Sherwin-Williams paint store in Zephyrhills to provide a 50 percent discount in paint purchases for grant qualifiers.
City Council president Ken Burgess pointed out the program is beneficial for aiding commercial businesses in keeping up with stronger code enforcements within the CRA district.
“I think this (will) be a good (way) to show that we’re not just trying to make things tougher; we’re also willing to help along the way, too,” he said.
Hamilton said she’s focused on “selling” the program to the community, and making sure people in the district understand the overall purpose of the CRA.
“I want to try to use as many carrots as I possibly can to get people to understand the vision of what the city and the CRA is trying to do, and that we’re not just saying, ‘You have to do this,’ but we’re also giving you a hand up in getting it done,” Hamilton said.
“We’re all in this together. Code enforcement and the city and the CRA are all working together, and this grant is there to help them.”
Other initiatives the CRA has focused on include a neighborhood cleanup program, restoration of the historic Jeffries Home and a master plan for the development of Zephyr Park.
Matching Façade Rehabilitation Grant Program
What: A grant program earmarking $10,000 to be used to stimulate façade rehabilitation and preservation of commercial buildings. Grants of up to $2,500 are permitted, but applicants must spend at least twice the amount of the grant they receive. For instance, someone spending $1,000 could receive a grant of $500.
Eligible improvements: New paint job, addition or replacement of awnings, traditional windows, door replacements and exterior lighting.
Ineligible improvements: Interior improvements, electrical work (except as related to signage or exterior lighting), roof and chimney repairs, and installation of aluminum or vinyl siding.
Published April 6, 2016