August 6, 2018
The Harvest Foundation plans to seek a state grant to help pay for its renovations to the former SunTrust Bank building in uptown Martinsville.
The foundation is converting the first floor of the building into its office space. It plans to move there this summer from the BB&T bank building across Ellsworth Street.
When the project is complete, Harvest plans to apply for up to $100,000 in a Real Property Investment Grant from the Virginia Enterprise Zone (VEZ) program, according to Allyson Rothrock, president of the Harvest Foundation.
Under terms of the grant, “we will apply at the end of 2018 for the award that happens in spring 2019,” she said.
If approved, grant funds will be used to “help with the level of reinvestment we can put into the interior and exterior of the project,” Rothrock said.
Grant funds can be used for any exterior, interior, structural, mechanical or electrical improvements, such as carpentry, painting, plumbing, drywall and paving, according to information from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (VDHCD).
The grants can cover 20 percent of any qualifying investment between $100,000 and $600,000, according to Susan McCulloch, community planner for the city of Martinsville. The grants are capped at $100,000 if the maximum investment for a rehabilitation or expansion project is $5 million, according to McCulloch and the VDHCD.
Harvest is paying for the renovations. Rothrock has said the total cost will be released when the project is complete.
Real Property Investment Grants are available for investments in industrial, commercial or mixed-use properties in Enterprise Zones, the VDHCD states. Most of uptown Martinsville, where the former SunTrust building is located, is in an Enterprise Zone.
The Virginia Enterprise Zone program is a partnership between state and local governments that encourages job creation and private investment, according to the VDHCD.
It does that by providing two kinds of grants — one for job creation and the other for real property investments, which is the type Harvest will seek. Job Creation Grants are funded first with an annual appropriation by the Virginia General Assembly. Remaining funds go to the Real Property Investment Grants.
If grant requests statewide exceed remaining funds, the awards are prorated based on the investment, the percentage of the building’s floor space involved and other criteria. In recent years, they have been funded at prorated amounts of about 73 cents and 67 cents per dollar requests, VDHCD stated.
The program is open to tenants with the approval of the property’s owner and nonprofits, such as Harvest. The former bank building is owned by the Simpson Organization of Atlanta.
“To the best of my knowledge, this is the only type of grant we could apply for as a nonprofit to help with renovation expenses,” Rothrock said.
She said she hopes still more entities — especially nonprofits — will consider seeking such grants.
“I hope what we are getting ready to do will generate others’ interest in upgrading property and beautification,” she said. “We’ve tried a lot of ways” to help revitalize the area. “Now it’s us doing it by example.”
McCulloch said a Real Property Investment Grant was awarded for renovations to The Henry, which was converted from a hotel to an apartment building a few years ago.
“We encourage others” to consider applying for the grants, even if the possible grant award is small, she said. “Whenever anyone comes in and is starting a new business, we always give them Enterprise Zone information” on state and local benefits.
Rothrock said she first learned about the grant program from Mark Heath, president/CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC). At his suggestion, she contacted McCulloch,who briefed her on the program.
“She’s a great resource” on such issues and feels confident Harvest will receive grant funds, Rothrock added.
The city’s help has made the grant application process easier, she said.
“The willingness of the city staff to help with the application, answer questions and provide other sources of information makes it very user friendly” and encouraging for Harvest, Rothrock said.
Seeking the Real Property Investment Grant for the project is typical of how the foundation urges its grant recipients to leverage their Harvest money to seek additional support for their efforts, she said.
“Enterprise Zone tax credits were designed to encourage business development. The same benefit that businesses derive from improved efficiencies apply to non-profits. We constantly look for ways to increase our impact faster than we increase our overhead, all the while maintaining quality in our work,” Rothrock said.
“This project is a perfect example of leveraging other dollars to assist us in maximizing our impact for the community. The award of Enterprise Zone credits would be an example of a strong committed partnership encouraging business development,” she added.
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