Bellefonte applies for $50,000 state facade improvement grant

Less than a month after creating a contracted position to promote downtown, Bellefonte has applied for its first grant through the new program.

The Borough Council approved a $50,000 grant application for downtown and waterfront district facade improvement through the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

If the grant is successful, the borough will be able to divide the money into individual $5,000 projects in which the property owner must also match the payment, Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said. Officials will know if their grant application was successful by April, and they will then take applications from property owners in the historic district and narrow projects.

Bellefonte hired former councilwoman Vana Dainty as the Keystone Development community coordinator last month with the vision that 60 percent of her job would be promoting the area and looking for grants, and the other 40 percent would be zoning officer duties. She resigned from the council to take the position that became available when the former zoning officer retired.

Stewart said he is pleased that the position is creating new opportunities so quickly.

“It is exciting,” he said. “It’s exactly what we wanted to do, and we hope this is the beginning of a great deal of success in bringing new life, new activity into our downtown.”

In the past, the borough has included the Bellefonte Historical Architecture Review Board in the grant-selection process, and Stewart said that is likely to happen again. Bellefonte had a similar program in the borough, but the funding ran out.

He said the key will be finding property owners who are willing to put up money for the grant match, and they will likely assemble a small committee to review the applications.

The borough was especially intrigued by the Keystone Development program because there is a possibility to get grants for things like sprinkler systems in buildings, and they still expect to apply for those grants when they become available.