City aims for building rehab funding from state


by Sarah Squires

The city of Winona might have a chunk of cash within reach to rehabilitate buildings.

It has applied for $695,000 through the state's Small Cities Development Program (SCDP), and has made it through the first phase of the competitive awards process.

Lucy McMartin, the city's program development director, said that the city should know whether it will gain the funding by May or June of 2007. The funding would be used for both commercial and housing needs, and the city will invite public opinion on the matter through a public hearing on Tuesday, January 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the City Hall council chambers.

McMartin said that interest expressed during the hearing could help the application process and could be included in the paperwork. The city first submitted a pre-application with the state in October and was approved to go forward with the actual application recently.

McMartin said that, if funded, $325,000 would be earmarked for commercial rehabilitation in blighted and dilapidated buildings, while $370,000 would go toward low and moderate income housing rehabilitation.

Although the money hasn't been awarded and plans aren't finalized, McMartin said that some of the conditions for how the money would be distributed have been settled. The maximum amount that would be granted for an owner-occupied home would be $20,000, with the homeowners responsible for at least some of the cost for chosen repairs. For a rental housing building, the limit would be $7,000 per unit and $14,000 for any one building, with owners asked to pay at least 50 percent of the cost for chosen repairs.

Commercial rehabilitation would be focused on the downtown area, said McMartin. She said that commercial building owners would be asked to pay at least 50 percent of the cost to repair the structure, with a maximum of $32,500 from the SCDP funding.

The repairs would be focused on the external condition of structures, along with work needed to bring a structure up to code, or to make it more energy-efficient.

McMartin said that as the city works on its comprehensive plan, many of the goals and objectives developing have to do with this type of repair work. "So we based our application from a lot of the information we obtained from that comprehensive planning process," she said.

Winona isn't new to the world of SCDP funding. McMartin said it had been awarded similar funds in 1990 and 1994. That money, around $1.2 million, was used to repair 62 rental units in the former middle school building and about 50 commercial buildings in the downtown area.

The public hearing will try to measure public interest in such a project, and McMartin said that if the funding goes through, there will be a series of town meetings to let people know how to apply.

McMartin said that the formula for how the funding might be distributed hasn't yet been worked out. "We're kind of targeting affordable family rental housing," she said.


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