City considers expanding definition of CDBG funds in economic development quest
It's still early in the process, but the city has begun looking at ways to use federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to help businesses and/or foster historic preservation.
Initial plans are being worked out between Housing Development - which has traditionally disbursed the CDBG funds that come to Colorado Springs - and the city's recently formed Office of Economic Vitality & Development.
Input will be sought from the public at some point. “We won't just say 'Here's our plan, here you go,'” commented Valorie Jordan, director of Housing Development.
One probable plan proposal, she said, will be that of offering low-interest loans to businesses, similar to the approach used in revitalizing Old Colorado City 30-some years ago. However, the thinking this time is to make that program citywide, she said.
City Councilmember Lisa Czelatdko, whose District 3 includes the older Westside, took the lead in initiating both the CDBG ideas. Nationwide, “some great things for historic preservation have been done with CDBG money,” she said. As for such funds helping businesses, she said she set out a few weeks ago “to see if economic development assistance from housing redevelopment can be utilized” in that way and learned from Jordan that the answer is yes. All that's lacking is “a program to make it happen,” the administrator explained.
The current CDBG goal, as stated on the city website, is “to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment and expanding economic opportunities, principally for persons of low and moderate income.”
In 2011, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave Colorado Springs a total of $2,327,618 in CDBG funds. How much of this might be set aside for business/historical eligibility is yet to be determined.
On the Westside, for some 30 years, a portion of the city CDBG funds has been dedicated annually to a Neighborhood Strategy Area (one of several NSA's in the city, that was designated mainly because of its aging infrastructure and its residents' relatively low income levels). For the Westside, CDBG assistance has typically included housing rehabilitation and street improvements (mainly curb, gutter and sidewalks).
In her CDBG research, Czelatdko found a HUD document titled “Preserving America,” which tells how historic preservation and “heritage tourism” are eligible for CDBG funding and lists communities nationwide that have used it for those purposes. Recently, she suggested that $10,000 from CDBG could be directed specifically for the Westside historic overlay that's been under discussion for several years.
Support on the preservation side has come from Dave Hughes (who helped lead past Old Colorado City renovation efforts) and Or-ganization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) President Welling Clark. When Czelatdko told them that historic preservation is not listed in the city's strategic plan or as part of the housing policies, Hughes brought out the 1980 Westside Plan, a city ordinance that has a section titled “Preserve Historical Architecture” followed by: “Preserve, enhance, and facilitate the use of the Westside's historical and architectually significant buildings.”
And, Clark produced a spreadsheet listing state/ national regulations that back the principle of using CDBG funds for preservation.
Westside Pioneer article