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Fries gets $1 million for downtown

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State funding will pay for revitalization project

By Landmark News Service

FRIES — The Fries Downtown Revitalization Project is among 24 projects in Virginia receiving a total of $12 million in funds from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
The town will receive a grant of $1 million.


“This is an initiative the town has been working on for the past five years,” Town Manager Brian Reed said in an e-mail.
Funding agencies include the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.
The Tobacco Commission announced funding of more than $193,000 in May, which went toward the purchase of the existing Fries Fire Department building and adjoining downtown properties. A matching grant comes from the ARC.
Project leaders say the relocation of the fire department (Phase I of the project) will open up the downtown area for economic redevelopment.
A new fire department is under construction in western Fries under the management of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, the Town of Fries and the Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority, the town's development partner.
The CDBG funding will be used to “physically and economically” revitalize downtown Fries, according to the funding application.
The $1 million grant will be used to:
• improve the facades of downtown buildings, which will benefit four current and six potential businesses.
• buy and clear the end addition of the largest downtown building, which was damaged in a propane explosion and the resulting fire.
• develop a town square. This would include installing 150 feet of sidewalks, curbs, guttering, outdoor lighting, benches and landscaping.
• develop a 1,210-square-foot farmers market with an adjoining stage.
• improve 9,584 square feet of parking.
• renovate the former fire department facilities to provide low-cost, start-up space for new businesses.
• create a revolving loan fund to provide start-up funding for new businesses within the project area.
Reed said that the successful CDBG application was prepared by Craig Wilson with K.W. Poore & Associates, which has now become Community Planning Partners Inc. with the assistance of Ken Mc Fayden, BRCEDA director, and the entire BRCEDA board.
“Project activities will most likely begin in the Spring of 2011 after the town complies with the initial contract negotiation activities and enters into a contract with DHCD,” Reed said.
"Through these grants, more than 5,100 individuals will see improved housing conditions, access to medical care and educational opportunities — and more Virginia communities will see revitalization and creation of jobs,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell in a press release.
"Several Virginia localities will receive aid in the revitalization of their central business districts," the governor said. "Façade and streetscape improvements will address blighting conditions. Paired with the small business loan pool made available through these grants they will help revitalize the economies of these communities and bring new jobs, tourists and events to the area."
"Our goal is to create better communities in which to live, work and do business in Virginia," said DHCD Director Bill Shelton. "Through CDBG funds, we have the tools in place to address housing, economic development, health, safety and other unique needs of each community."