Berlin Seeks State Façade Funds

BERLIN — Following a string of advantageous collaborations with the state, the Berlin Mayor and Council will be requesting $115,000 worth of grant funding for façade restoration on the town Visitors Center from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

“They’ve got $2 million extra this year so I think it’s a pretty good shot,” Berlin Economic Development Director Michael Day told the council, reporting $6.2 million is available compared to last year’s roughly $4.2 million.

The Visitors Center, or Chamber of Commerce building as many know it, is applying for $75,000 worth of façade improvements as well as $40,000 worth of roof renovations, which will include the installation of energy efficient shingles. While the special shingles will add extra cost to the roof, Day explained it will also make the grant application more appealing to the DHCD.

“It’s energy efficient … the state likes anything green,” he said.

By Day’s account, Berlin has already received more than $100,000 in façade improvement grants from DHCD, which have in turn sparked more private funding, leading to significant structural improvements in downtown Berlin within the past few years.

“We have dispersed approximately $105,000 [in grants] which has generated about $350,000 in improvement,” he said.

Day admitted that the DHCD façade improvement plan has taken “a while to catch on” but is now extremely popular amongst business owners in Berlin.

“I don’t think people realized that I was giving money away,” he said.

About a dozen businesses in town have applied for and received DHCD façade improvement funding, which operates on a one-to-one match system, meaning every dollar coming from the state must be matched equally by the individual making the application. But that’s a pretty favorable system for businesses, according to Day, who revealed that many grant programs often demand a two-to-one or greater match.

Berlin is looking good overall, he added, but does still need a lot of maintenance, especially in its storied historic district.

“There’s a lot of upkeep that needs to be done on a lot of these buildings,” said Day.

With the council’s unanimous approval behind the application, Day expects to learn whether the application has been accepted within the next two to three months.