Berlin Gains Sustainable Title

BERLIN – A designation as one of the state’s “Sustainable Communities” is expected to allow Berlin’s successful façade grant program to continue.

Berlin is now one of 77 certified Sustainable Communities in Maryland. The designation, created by the Department of Housing and Community Development, allows municipal and county governments to apply for state funding for revitalization projects.

“We’re trying to make the towns a better place to live, work and shop,” said Kevin Baynes, director of community programs for the Department of Housing and Community Development. “This designation brings dollars.”

Baynes said the state passed the Sustainable Communities Act in 2010 in an effort to create a new target area for revitalization. It was also an attempt to consolidate several existing programs.

Michael Day, Berlin’s economic and community development director, said the application process was extensive. He and a committee compiled a significant amount of documentation on the town, its programs and what its revitalization plans were.

“The town has to be able to show they have the ability and interest to invest in the area as well,” Baynes said.

Day said the key reason Berlin applied for the designation was to maintain its eligibility for grants it had been receiving through the Community Legacy program.

“That’s done so much for the town,” Day said.

Berlin has been awarded $382,000 in Community Legacy funds. Of that, $125,000 was used to help purchase the town’s visitors center on Main Street. The rest of the funding was used to convert three downtown warehouses — two on Main Street and one on Pitts Street — into office and retail space. The funding was also used to finance the popular façade grant program. Through it, business owners have been able to receive matching grants for exterior improvements to their buildings.

Berlin is the fourth community in Worcester County to earn the Sustainable Communities designation.