Two Grants For Local Projects

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By Linda Cicoira — Two $700,000 community development block grants were awarded for projects on the Eastern Shore, Gov. Ralph Northam announced late last week.

The revitalization of downtown Parksley is one of the projects. The other is housing renovations near Keller.

After it was decided the Eastern Shore Public Library would be relocating to Parksley, town officials approached the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development for help improving the economic and physical conditions of its downtown.

A management team conducted public surveys and held meetings to develop a vision for the area and determined Parksley strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, according to Curt Smith, director of planning for the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission.

To highlight the town’s uniqueness, the tagline, “Parksley: There’s Only One!” was approved for the town and “Get On Board!” was approved for the project. Three goals for revitalizing the town’s economy were identified. Town leaders want to improve, enhance, and develop downtown infrastructure; create a marketing and branding strategy to establish Parksley as a visitor and business destination; and create a vibrant economy and community by providing support to and investing in existing and new entrepreneurs, businesses, and residents.

“I am thrilled,” said Councilman Frank Russell. “The town of Parksley appreciates all who were instrumental in getting us the grant” including Smith and Clara Vaughn, also of the A-NDCS, “the local representatives, Del. Robert Bloxom and Sen. Lynwood Lewis, Gov. Ralph Northam, and all the volunteers around town who attended the meetings. We can’t wait to get started on the project.”

The project includes facade improvement for 20 properties that would use $210,600 of the funds with a local match of $162,000, erecting a bandshell and entertainment and education area at $347,501, and making a signature alleyway that links the library for $56,899. About $15,000 will be spent on market research and branding. The A-NPDC will use $70,000 of the grant to manage the project.

“The CDBG program continues to be a vital resource for funding projects that help build strong regional economies throughout Virginia and address the most pressing needs in our communities,” said Northam. “The localities receiving these grant awards are making important investments in infrastructure, housing rehabilitation, and downtown revitalization that will enable them to deliver essential services to their citizens and attract new residents, businesses, and visitors.”

The $13.4 million in statewide grants “fund 14 different projects targeted to improve quality of life,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “CDBG is a flexible tool we utilize to help address blight, improve housing, provide facilities for a variety of needed services, and increase access to water and sewer in communities throughout the Commonwealth.”

Bobby Jo Wert, director of housing development for A-NPDC, said in the Gospel Temple/Lankford Highway/Adams Crossing area of Keller, “there are several derelict structures pre-determined to be demolished, removing blight in the neighborhood. Under the current proposal, eight blight structures will be removed.”

Five are owner-occupied. The other three are vacant structures. Substantial reconstruction is proposed for the five, including removing a pump and haul septic system and installing a new alternative system. Four new deep wells are also needed.

Officials plan on meeting in mid-September for contract negotiations, Wert said. “We are eager to start this project, helping families with their housing needs.”

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