By Melanie Williamson
17 Vermilion businesses recently had the opportunity to make significant improvements to their properties with the help of the Community Development Block Grant. Projects that were partially funded by the grant included new siding, HVAC repairs and upgrades, painting, masonry work, façade repairs, accessibility projects, and gutter installation. Main Street Vermilion administered the grant funds and worked with the property owners to ensure the process went smoothly.
Each project had to be reviewed by the Ohio Historic Preservation Office and approved. According to Main Street Vermilion Executive Director Marilou Suszko, 30 businesses applied and 17 were approved. This particular grant was a reimbursement grant, which means the building owner had to pay for 100% of the project first and then get up to 75% of the project reimbursed through the grant funds.
Suszko emphasized the importance of the investment the building owners were making in their properties and in the Historic downtown of Vermilion. She stated that many of the projects went well above the budget for each building, which meant the while the grant helped to offset the expense, the owners were paying the majority of the bill. Some of the businesses requested grant money for materials only if they were able to do the work themselves.
The grant started at the federal level and then was filtered to the individual states and then to the counties. Vermilion was only one of five cities in the state of Ohio to receive a CDB Grant. The grant was limited strictly to the historic district. The grant process started 18 months ago under Mayor Eileen Bulan. Main Street Vermilion got involved with the grant program because the purpose of the grant paralleled with their mission of historic preservation according to Suszko.
Suszko stated that while it is an annual grant program, it is not guaranteed every year. This was the fourth time Vermilion received grant money through this program. The total amount awarded to Vermilion was $300,000. While $270,000 was awarded to individual businesses, $80,000 was used for infrastructure improvements in the downtown area including Historic lighting on the west side of Liberty.
Suszko stated that the investments being made by the downtown business and property owners helped to enhance the wealth and vibrancy of the Historic District. She also shared that she was really happy to be involved. This was the fourth time over the course of fifteen years that Vermilion was awarded grant money through the CBDG program with a total investment of approximately $1.5 million.