Essex streetscaping project and Mount Carmel school receive grant funding
Last month, several Essex projects received $250,000 total through the Community Legacy program, which is managed by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, for beautification and renovation projects in 2019. MOUNT CARMEL
Two separate grants of $125,000 will be used to fund space enhancements at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel School campus. The first being improvements to the aging Kathleen Sipes Community Hall, including new flooring, lighting, and ceilings. The other project would update the school’s athletic field.
Chrissy Hedglin, the Director of Development for Mount Carmel and grant writer, explained that increasing the durability and usability of the field will hopefully make it a more sought after location for regional and local sporting events.
“Improvements to these spaces has long been a part of strategic plans. However, raising the necessary capital funds is difficult as we have always prioritized the learning of our students and affordability of our school above capital improvements. Upon learning of the existence of the Community Legacy Grants, we saw an opportunity to make them reality,” said Hedglin. “While these projects do not directly invest in classrooms, they provide places for our community to meet and build.
Places for people to gather and engage form the foundation of thriving communities.”
There hasn’t been any significant capital improvement done to the school, which was founded in 1927, since 1963.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel School will host an Open House for grades PreK-12 on Thursday, November 15 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. ESSEX STREETSCAPING Our Lady of Mount Carmel partnered with the Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce to solicit the Community Legacy Grants. The chamber also received $100,000 for streetscaping projects at the Essex business corridor on Eastern Blvd.
Since the summer, the Chamber has been working with the Neighborhood Design Center organization to gather community feedback on the improvements residents would most like to see to this main street through a booth at Essex Day 2018 and several workshops at the Essex library.
“We’ve been getting really helpful input from the community at each stage,” said Sharon Kihn, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Gateway Chamber. “We’re working closely with the county and state to to make sure everything is in line with what people are interested in and want to see. So far, everybody has been pleased with what they’ve seen.”
The Neighborhood Design Center will present their findings and recommended uses for the money to the community at the Essex Tree Lighting this December.
Laura Wheaton, the project’s manager from Neighborhood Design Center, said that the next step will be additional community meetings in Januar y and February 2019 to discuss the more specific proposals and to present a list of other capital improvement projects they recommend.
“The point of all this is to see the ideal vision for downtown Essex,” said Wheaton, “We’re looking at what improvements can be done to reach that vision and analyzing all the input and the broad stroke feasibility so that we can move forward.”
This is all part of a larger, more extensive revitalization that the Chamber, along with the Eastern Baltimore County Task Force sub-committee, has been working towards. Kihn said their current priority has been a facade improvement program that would update the look of local businesses along the corridor. She said that area has so many vacancies and improving the ones already there will increase attention and interest in the area.
Kihn explains it will be completed in two phases. This first phase tackles quality of life issues such as getting rids of overgrown trees, new trash cans, and more efficient ways control trash and rats.
In the past few months, the organization had used a $10,000 Commercial Revitalization grant to fix the flower pots in downtown Essex and to improve the brickwork and install new wooden benches at the bus stop.
Kihn said these improvements have made an impact. Residents that were once skeptical are starting to see to benefits of Essex’s rebirth.
“I think people are starting to see things change and all that we can accomplish with volunteers and funding.”
The Community Legacy program aims to help local governments and community development organizations with funding for projects aimed at strengthening communities through activities such as business retention and attraction, encouraging homeownership and commercial revitalization.
“Community Legacy grants often serve as a catalyst to leverage additional public, private, and nonprofit investment for these vital projects,” said Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth C. Holt. “We will continue to partner with local stakeholders and support their efforts to enhance the economic vitality, beauty, culture, and livability of Maryland’s neighborhoods.”
The Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce booth at the Essex Day 2018 gathering community input on possible improvement projects. This feedback will be used to design a streetscaping masterplan to presented in December by the Neighborhood Design Center.