Md. Grant Boosts Berlin Facade Program

BERLIN – A Maryland state grant for community enhancements will infuse $150,000 into the Berlin Main Street Program’s façade improvement efforts.

The Community Legacy grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to the Berlin Main Street Program totals $75,000.

Funding from the local business community will match that $75,000 dollar for dollar, making sure at least $150,000 total is spent for façade improvements on downtown Berlin commercial buildings.

The funding from the state is meant as seed money to jump start work on local structures.

“That comes from the business community. The town doesn’t have to match a penny of it,” said Berlin Economic Development Director Michael Day.

Business owners must match the façade improvement money they receive dollar for dollar. Façade improvement assistance is capped at a total of $10,000 per project.

“They can spend as much as they want. We will only match up to $10,000,” said Day.

Both small and large projects are encouraged to apply for the funds. Business owners must submit an application, receive approval from the Main Street Program and then another approval from the Maryland Historical Society before proceeding, Day said.

Once the project is finished, the approved applicants must submit receipts and would then be reimbursed.

Ocean City, which has had a downtown façade improvement initiative for some time under the administration of the Ocean City Development Corporation, has seen business owners spend far more than the matching funds required by the state in improving their buildings, for a ratio of $1 in state money to $6 in private funding from downtown Ocean City business owners.

Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) Director Glenn Irwin has called the resort’s business façade betterment initiative “probably our best redevelopment program.”

While Ocean City has concentrated on funding improvement projects focused on windows, siding, signs and areas in the view of pedestrians, Berlin will look more at adding green improvements to local buildings, such as energy efficient windows.

“I’d like them to consider the green aspects of it,” said Day.

The largest façade needs in Berlin are brick pointing and window improvements or replacements.

“I’d like for some of them to consider putting awnings up,” said Day, allowing pedestrians to make their way around town in the rain.

Day applied for the funding in July, warning at the time that the competition for the $4 million available would be fierce. Ocean City and Cambridge also received Community Legacy money from the state program this winter.

Proponents say that façade improvements will make Berlin’s downtown area more attractive to new businesses and development, as well as attracting more customers.

“This is just one more example of the benefits the town of Berlin derives from our designation as a Maryland Main Street community,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams. “I am pleased to see that our partners in the state of Maryland continue to recognize the commitment and support the program is receiving from Berlin’s business community.”

“Downtown Berlin is really on a roll right now and by infusing $150,000 more into our Main Street facades we’re going to look fantastic,” said Day. “What town wouldn’t benefit from a facelift to showcase their special assets?”