Facade Lighting Project

Project Overview

Downtown Chestertown today reflects a “vehicle-first” approach to lighting and needs to move to a “people first” approach. The dominant illumination is provided by the cobra-head street lights designed to provide light for drivers. The sidewalk lighting along the commercial blocks of High, Cross and Cannon Streets fails to meet any decent standard for unity of intensity and color temperature. It is a disparate mix of what experts call “spill light” emanating from the occasional storefront window and exterior facade lights. The result is an unsafe and unattractive chaos of color tones and volume of light that ranges from near zero to the harsh glare of fluorescent tubing. There are stretches of sidewalk in the heart of downtown that are downright dark, creating tripping hazards, making it harder for drivers to see pedestrians entering or crossing the street, and making the area feel unwelcoming. Indeed, Chestertown after dark can look and feel “dead” to those driving or walking through.

This dreary look works against the shop owners who are committed to staying open later and to restaurateurs who count on people to stay downtown or be enticed into town in the evening for drinks and dinners. Good lighting, to the contrary, sends clear signals about how viable our economy is and creates an upbeat and welcoming mood. As we recover from the ups and downs caused by Covid, Chestertown must move forward with plans that will make our Town a more economically vibrant destination for visitors, a more appealing potential site for new businesses, and a brighter place for residents to live and work.

In the Spring of 2022, Main Street Chestertown’s Facade Improvement Committee embarked on a project to improve facade lighting downtown, with funding from a grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development. As a result of Main Street’s Facade Lighting Project, we anticipate the following outcomes:

  • A community where people feel safer and more welcome.
  • A downtown where drivers can better see pedestrians crossing or entering an intersection or street.
  • A downtown where residents and visitors feel safer and more welcome to walk the sidewalk after dark, contributing to a healthier community.
  • A Town where people are more motivated to stay downtown longer or to come into town in the evening to shop, dine, and walk.
  • Increased revenues for shops and restaurants.
  • Greater pride and morale among downtown businesses and residents.
  • More shops willing to stay open later into the evening.
  • A better environment for attracting new businesses and new residents.

With the help of property owners, we can “light up the night” in our small downtown, and create a safe and welcoming destination for residents and visitors. 

 

Application Guidelines  

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 grants for lighting improvements made to commercial buildings and storefronts in the historic downtown district. The program was created in the interest of making the lighting along brick sidewalks more consistent, safer, and more attractive. It is known that high quality lighting of pedestrian walkways and storefronts can increase foot traffic and sales revenues, and can increase the marketability of space within the buildings.   

Main Street Chestertown currently offers grants of up to $5,000 per property towards the total cost of a Facade Lighting Project, with an additional $2,500 available for properties that have two eligible public facades as identified in the attached Map (see Resources).  

NOTE: Work completed prior to a letter of commitment is not eligible for funding.  

The Facade Lighting Project is administered by a five-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 Chestertown Historic District Commission serves as a non-voting advisory member of the Panel. 

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.  Specifically, the attached Map (see Resources), labeled “Lighting Property Map”, and attached spreadsheet (see Resources), labeled  “Lighting Property List”, identifies properties and facades that are eligible to apply for Facade Lighting Project grants. 

Any owner of an eligible commercial building, or a store owner/tenant of an eligible   commercial building who has obtained the required authorization from the property owner, can apply for funding, with some notable exceptions: According to conditions set in our  funding agreement with the State, we cannot approve grants to active religious institutions,  pawn shops, gun shops, tanning salons, massage parlors, adult video/book shop, adult entertainment facilities, check-cashing facilities, gambling facilities, tattoo parlors or liquor  stores.

WHAT KIND OF WORK IS COVERED?  

The program gives the highest consideration to projects that improve the pedestrian lighting quality of Chestertown’s streetscape. We encourage applicants to make noticeable  improvements in the design and aesthetics of the facade lighting where possible. Only  improvements to the sides of the building that face the street or a public thoroughfare (as identified in the attached Map, labeled “Lighting Property Map”) are eligible for funding. The scope of work eligible for funding includes the cost of labor and materials related to the installation of the following lighting:  

  • Interior storefront window display lighting  
  • Exterior wall sconces  
  • Exterior canopy lights
  • Exterior ceiling lights

 

GENERAL GUIDELINES  

Applicants must own the commercial property specified on the application or be a business that leases space in the building and obtains the required authorization from the building owner as part of the application process.  

Once an application is approved, it cannot be modified. If costs of the project change after an award letter is sent, additional funds cannot be requested. Reimbursements will be based on actual project costs, not including in-kind labor or donated materials, up to the approved amount.  

HOW TO APPLY  

The Executive Director of MSHC, which is housed on the second floor of Town Hall, 118 N. Cross  Street, will provide interested businesses/property owners with the necessary  documents in person or by email. 

The Applicant will be provided with “Lighting Design Guidelines” which will have pre selected fixtures, including necessary lamping requirements. However, each project must receive approval by the Chestertown Historic District Commission (HDC) and the Maryland Historic Trust (MHT). Main Street will assist property owners with this process. No work or purchasing of materials can begin until the project is approved by all parties.

Applicants must submit to Main Street:  

  • The two-page application.  
  • Two or more color photographs of the existing building exterior, with location of proposed lighting shown. It is strongly recommended that lighting be selected from the lighting options identified in the attached “Lighting Source Guidelines” 
  • Electrician’s proposal on business letterhead with proof of license and insurance. 

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 14 days. 

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.  

Lighting projects must be completed within six months of the time of approval, and no later than December 31, 2023.

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.  

With the requirements successfully met, Main Street Chestertown issues the check to the applicant. Once the check has been cashed, Main Street submits its own reimbursement request to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Resources

If resources do not open or download properly, please email director@mainstreetchestertown.org for digital or paper copies.