City approves downtown grant programs

Published 9:47 am Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Downtown Winchester received a financial boost after the city approved several grant programs to help fund investment in downtown.

Main Street Winchester Executive Director Rachel Alexander said the programs are based on those in other communities, most notably Paducah’s. There is already a pool of approximately $325,000 available, which would be split among the four programs, she said.

The programs offer grants for new businesses, repairing facades, roof stabilization and upper story residences.

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The program was approved unanimously by the Winchester Board of Commissioners last week.

Establishing a grant program was one of the items listed in the downtown master plan, which was completed a couple years ago to encourage investment in downtown Winchester.

Part of that development was creating market-rate housing in downtown as well as encouraging new business. One of the stumbling blocks to development, officials have said, was bringing older buildings up to code, including roofs.

There is application process for the grants, which must be completed before any grants are awarded. The program, though, limits a person or company to one of any type of grant at a given time, she said.

“I think you can apply for all four, but you can’t do two facade grants within a year,” Alexander said. “I hope someone comes in who has a project that needs all four (types of grants).”

The downtown improvement fund was approved in late 2017.

The master plan itself was presented and approved in spring 2017 and included initiatives including creating the investment fund, establishing a tax increment financing district for downtown, encouraging downtown housing, unifying the downtown streetscape and creating the investment fund.

At this point, Alexander said there is enough money to finance the grant program for three years. The future of the program beyond that has not been determined.

“It’s kind of a wait-and-see situation,” she said. “It may be after three years, things are going well and reinvestment is sustainable on its own and it’s not necessary to support that development.”

The program could continue, or be suspended until the need re-emerges, she said.

“Downtown is a project that will never be completed,” she said.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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