Facade Improvement Grant Program
The Fall 2023 application period is now open. The due date for applications is September 30th, 2023.
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 and improve the marketability of space within the buildings.
Main Street Chestertown currently offers grants to cover up to 50 percent of the total cost of a facade improvement project, with a minimum grant amount of $2,000 and a maximum grant amount of $20,000. In addition, the program will provide a 100 percent match for the first $1,000 of improvements. That means if an applicant plans a $4,000 improvement to a building facade, Main Street could grant as much as $2,500 toward the project.
NOTE: Each funding period is based on monies received from external funding sources. Therefore, if external funding is low, less expensive projects will be given higher priority.
NOTE: Work completed prior to a letter of commitment is not eligible for funding.
The Façade Improvement Project is administered by a six-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.
Any owner of a commercial building in the Historic District, or a store owner/tenant of a commercial building in the District 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 a building’s physical appearance and, thus, the attractiveness of Chestertown’s pedestrian streetscape. We encourage applicants to go beyond basic maintenance and make noticeable improvements in the design and aesthetics of the facade when possible. Only improvements to the sides of the building that face the street or a public thoroughfare or sides of a building containing primary business entrances are eligible for funding. Facades fully visible, but not directly facing the street or public thoroughfares may also be eligible, but will be reviewed by the committee on a case-by-case basis. They include but are not limited to:
- Awnings, window boxes and planters
- Door and window repair, replacement, and redesign
- Exterior painting and restoring finishes and materials
- Decorative and functional exterior lighting
- Masonry and siding repairs
- Reconstruction or replacement of historic features
- Removal of inappropriate architectural elements and finishes.
- Gutters and downspouts
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 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 can not be modified. If costs of the project change after an award letter is sent, additional funds can not 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, who 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 (email@example.com). Please contact the Director to receive documents.
Applicants must submit:
- The two-page application.
- Two or more color photographs of the building exterior.
- Detailed drawings of the proposed renovations/improvements.
- Two or more bids on contractor letterhead.
Within 30 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.
NOTE: Renovation projects must be started within six months of the time of approval and completed within one year.
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.
Chestertown, Maryland was founded in 1706. It was established as a port town and played a significant role in the colonial era, serving as a bustling trade hub along the Chester River. Today, Chestertown retains much of its historic charm and is known for its well-preserved 18th-century architecture and vibrant cultural scene. Thanks for checking us out!
Chestertown Town Hall
118 N. Cross Street
Chestertown MD 21620
PO Box 427
Chestertown MD 21620