Sprucing Up

Painting A Cross Street Facade.Crop.KevinMoore

Main Street Chestertown Facade Improvement Grants 

Commercial building owners and their tenants in the Historic District can apply for up to $20,000 in matching grants to improve the look and integrity of their facades.

A Cross Street building gets a fresh coat. Photo by Kevin B. Moore.

ABOUT THE PROGRAM

Main Street Historic Chestertown (MSHC), with funding from the Community Legacy program administered by the State of Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development, offers matching grants for façade improvements made to commercial buildings and storefronts in the historic downtown district. The program was created to encourage building renovation, historic preservation and improved economic vitality.  It is known that quality aesthetics increase property values and sales revenues, improve the marketability of space within the buildings, and draw businesses and residents to the area.

In the inaugural year of the program, commercial building and/or business owners can apply for grants covering 60 percent of the cost of their improvement project. (This percentage may be reduced in future years.) The minimum grant amount is $500, and the maximum grant amount is $20,000. Please note: Work completed prior to a letter of commitment is not eligible for funding.

The Façade Improvement Project is administered by a three-member panel (The Façade Improvement Review Panel) drawn from the MSHC Design Committee, a group of volunteers with expertise in areas that include real estate, design, and preservation. A representative of the Historic District Commission will serve as an advisory member of the Façade Improvement Review Panel.

WHAT KIND OF WORK IS COVERED?

Only improvements to the street facing façade(s) of buildings are eligible for funding. They include but are not limited to:

  • Reconstruction or replacement of historic features
  • Removal of inappropriate architectural elements and finishes.
  • Door and window repair, replacement, and redesign
  • Exterior painting and restoring finishes and materials
  • Awnings
  • Decorative and functional exterior lighting
  • Masonry and siding repairs
  • Signage
  • Gutters and downspouts

WHO CAN APPLY?

The Main Street program focuses on the revitalization of the historic downtown commercial district and it operates within the boundaries of the Historic District. Any owner of a commercial building in the Historic District, or a store owner/building tenant in the District who has obtained the proper authorization from the property owner, can apply for funding. The primary focus of the project area is the following blocks in the Historic District:
200-300 blocks of High Street
100 block of N. Cross Street
100-200 blocks of S. Cross Street
200-300 blocks of Cannon Street
All of Park Row facing Fountain Park
(Additional locations on commercially oriented blocks in the Historic District will be considered.)

GENERAL GUIDELINES

Preference will be given to projects that will restore a building’s historical integrity, that improve the exterior appearance of a retail store or restaurant, and that involve coordinated efforts of contiguous properties. The Façade Improvement Review Panel also will favor projects that include professional design expertise from an architect and/or designer.

Applicants must own commercial property or a business located within Chestertown’s Main Street District (the Historic District). If a business is leasing its space, it must obtain authorization from the building owner as part of the application process.

Reimbursements will be based on actual project costs, not including in-kind labor or donated materials.

HOW TO APPLY

Want a pre-application conversation? Members of the Review Panel will be happy to meet with you to discuss the potential changes/renovations that will provide the greatest impact in terms of aesthetic appeal.   To schedule a meeting,  email or call Kay MacIntosh, manager of the Main Street Historic Chestertown program (410-778-2991, kay.chestertown@gmail.com).

Applicants can pick up the application form at Town Hall, 118 N. Cross Street, or download it here.

Applicants will submit:

  1. The two-page application.
  2. Two or more color photographs of the building exterior.
  3. Detailed drawings of the proposed renovations/improvements.
  4. Two or more bids on contractor letterhead.

HOW THE PROCESS WORKS

Within 14 days of receiving the application, the Façade Improvement Review Panel will make a decision to a) approve b) reject or c) suggest revisions to the proposed changes.

Once a plan is approved, the Façade Improvement Review Panel will forward it to the Maryland Historic Trust for its review, as required by the State. The Trust typically  renders its review within 30 days.

Once approved by the Façade Improvement Review Panel, and while awaiting the review by the Trust, the applicant should submit the plans to Chestertown’s Historic District Commission, which will ensure that all project materials and designs meet the standards for the District. Any revisions required by the Commission should be forwarded to the Façade Improvement Review Panel.

When the Maryland Historic Trust and the local Historic District Commission have both granted their approval, Main Street Chestertown will contact the applicant and issue a letter of commitment for the project, including the amount of the grant and any conditions of approval.

The applicant will be responsible for obtaining all the necessary building and work permits for the project and for conforming to applicable safety standards.

To qualify for reimbursement, renovation projects must be started within six months of the time of approval and completed within one year.  Time extensions may be considered based on special circumstances.

Once the project has been completed, the applicant will present proof of expenses (canceled checks, paid invoices, contractor’s sworn statements, etc.) to the Main Street office for reimbursement up to the amount of the grant.  To qualify for reimbursement, the work must conform to the descriptions in the approved application.