Coun­cil ap­proves city’s down­town de­vel­op­ment grant ap­pli­ca­tion

Newark Post - - Local News - By KARIE SIM­MONS ksim­mons@ches­

The city of Ne­wark is one step closer to sub­mit­ting its ap­pli­ca­tion for a down­town de­vel­op­ment grant af­ter coun­cil voted in fa­vor of the pro­posal Mon­day night.

Ne­wark is seek­ing a share of the state pro­gram, which was ap­proved in 2014 and al­lows mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to carve out “down­town dis­tricts” for re­vi­tal­iza­tion.

In dis­tricts se­lected for the pro­gram, pri­vate en­ti­ties will be able to re­ceive grants to off­set up to 20 per­cent of cap­i­tal costs for build­ing or re­de­vel­op­ing prop­er­ties in the district. Gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties them­selves are not el­i­gi­ble.

Ne­wark was passed over for the grant last year, but the city has since re­vised its district to in­clude parts of Cleve­land Av­enue and Col- lege Square in ad­di­tion to Main Street and is fo­cus­ing its ap­pli­ca­tion on the need to di­ver­sify the hous­ing stock to pro­vide more af­ford­able hous­ing for fam­i­lies, se­niors and young pro­fes­sion­als.

Fort­ner told coun­cil on Mon­day that each sec­tion of the down­town district is in need of some­thing unique. On Main Street, he said, there are op­por­tu­ni­ties for some his­toric ren­o­va­tions, but in ar­eas north of Cleve­land Av­enue – North Street, Prospect Av­enue, Ker­shaw Street and Wil­bur Street – there are older, sin­gle-fam­ily rental homes and du­plexes that need a com­plete over­haul.

He said the city still feels the New Cen­ter Vil­lage District – Cen­ter Street, Lin­den Street, New Street, Choate Street and parts of North Chapel Street – could use some help, as well. That area was a large fo­cus of last year’s ap­pli­ca­tion.

“We do see it as a place of hous­ing op­por­tu­nity and re­de­vel­op­ment,” Fort­ner said.

The ap­pli­ca­tion, he ex­plained, also touches on the need to ex­pand busi­nesses and hous­ing on the eastern part of Main Street. Fort­ner said that area is far­ther from the Uni­ver­sity of Delaware cam­pus and could be a good place for older res­i­dents as well as stores or restau­rants that don’t nec­es­sar­ily cater to col­lege stu­dents.

There are many ar­eas of the down­town district that could use the grant fund­ing, but Fort­ner said Col­lege Square is “the big op­por­tu­nity of this ap­pli­ca­tion.”

Fort­ner said it would be great if Col­lege Square was re­de­vel­oped as a mixed-use area with re­tail and rental hous­ing geared to­ward young pro­fes­sion­als and se­niors. How­ever, he noted that the owner, Fusco En­ter­prises, has not ex­pressed in­ter­est in in­clud­ing hous­ing.

He told coun­cil on Mon­day that if the grant ap­pli­ca­tion puts enough em­pha­sis on the city’s strong de­sire for a more di­verse hous­ing stock, Ne­wark may get cho­sen this time around.

“Ne­wark has a lot go­ing for us be­cause we’re a very suc­cess­ful down­town. It’s pos­si­ble the state will want to hop on the band­wagon of that and help us with our suc­cess. On the other hand, we are hav­ing a lot of suc­cess,” Fort­ner said. “What we’re go­ing to try to show is, yeah we’re hav­ing a lot of suc­cess in new de­vel­op­ment, but we’re not get­ting a di­ver­si­fied amount of de­vel­op­ment. We’re get­ting the same kind of de­vel­op­ment and we’d like to en­cour­age home own­er­ship, con­domin- ium de­vel­op­ment, af­ford­able hous­ing re­hab, and th­ese are the kinds of things we need to have in­cen­tivised.”

Fort­ner said the only down­side of re­ceiv­ing the fund­ing is the ex­tra staff time nec­es­sary to pro­mote the pro­gram, pro­duce lit­er­a­ture, post on the city web­site and talk to de­vel­op­ers. How­ever, he said, none of the money will pay for the ad­di­tional ad­min­is­tra­tive time.

“So there re­ally is no down­side,” said Coun­cil­man Luke Chap­man. “I’m sur­prised we’re even spend­ing so much time on it. Just say yes.”

How­ever, Coun­cil­woman Jen Wal­lace ar­gued there is a down­side. If the city re­ceives the money and doesn’t fol­low through to meet the goals in the ap­pli­ca­tion, it re­flects badly on the city and could af­fect fu­ture grant fund­ing.

Res­i­dent Helga Hunt­ley ques­tioned the city’s de­ci­sion to iden­tify Col­lege Square as an area for hous­ing de­vel­op­ment, when the owner of the shop­ping cen­ter has no in­ter­est in pro­vid­ing hous­ing.

“I’m not sure how well that will fit into a longer term vi­sion,” Hunt­ley said.

Coun­cil­woman Had­den made a mo­tion to en­dorse the ap­pli­ca­tion, granted coun­cil’s com­ments are in­cluded in the fi­nal pro­posal.

“It’s a no-brainer for me,” she said. “I think we should move for­ward with this.”

The board voted unan­i­mously in fa­vor of the ap­pli­ca­tion. Coun­cil­man Todd Ruckle and Mayor Polly Sierer were ab­sent from the meet­ing.

Fort­ner said he will sub­mit the ap­pli­ca­tion on June 1 and ex­pects the state to an­nounce its selections this sum­mer.

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