SNOW HILL – Businesses in downtown Berlin will continue to have access to façade improvement funds thanks to a grant from the state.
The town received $50,000 in façade improvement funding from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development this week. Shop owners who want to enhance their storefronts can apply for up to $10,000 in funding through the program.
“The program was so popular we literally ran out of money,” said Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director.
Façade grants, which range from $500 to $10,000, can be used to pay for any sort of exterior improvements. Wells said the program helped merchants in the historic district make what could sometimes be costly upgrades to their facades. Each grant application is reviewed by the Maryland Historic Trust.
“It’s so important because when you have a business in the historic district, there are standards you have to abide by that sometimes cost more,” she said.
In order to apply for the grant, merchants have to submit an application and then have the improvements made. They can submit receipts for 50% reimbursement — not to exceed $10,000 — once the work is done.
There is no due date for applications, as the town will offer the program until funds run out.
Planning Director Dave Engelhart said the façade grants had helped many downtown shops in recent years. He said the replacement of the entrance at the Church Mouse was a great example.
“To me that was a small grant but it made a huge difference for that building,” he said.
Wells said some merchants had previously submitted applications and had been waiting for the town to receive more façade funds.
“They’d love to be able to take advantage of this program,” she said, adding that it could be used for things like awnings, signage and even curbside pickup windows.
Funding for some similar projects is also being sought from Berlin’s Main Street program, which has $194,113 to provide grants to businesses impacted by COVID-19. Wells said businesses could apply for grants through both programs, though applications for the Main Street program have to be in by March 19. Wells said 30 applications had been received so far.
In other grant news, the town did not receive the $500,000 strategic demolition grant from the state it applied for. Wells said much of the available funding went to Ellicott City.
“We knew it was a longshot,” Wells said. “There were only 11 projects throughout the entire state that received that grant.”