East Side grants get another look

Revitalizing Warren’s eastern gateway using grant dollars for businesses may not be enough.

At Wednesday morning’s meeting of the city planning commission, members discussed making grants available to the owners of residences along Pennsylvania Avenue on the city’s east side.

“As I drive up the east side, there are several properties that are in dire need of facade improvement but are not commercial properties,” commission member Pat Scutella said. “If the intent is to improve… some of the most needed properties are residential.”

“We need to go back to the core of this,” member Bob Dilks said. “What is our goal here? Making the east side more inviting?”

“One of the things I harped on was creating a walkable corridor,” Dilks said. “There are four or five properties that are not commercial that need help.”

Although several members spoke in favor of the proposal, those in attendance generally agreed to hold off and perhaps include residential properties in later phases of the program.

“I personally would prefer to keep the residential and rental properties separate,” City Manager Nancy Freenock said. “We should stick with something that’s been done before.” Past programs have benefited the central business district area.

If the planners want to expand the project to residences, “I would really want to talk to the solicitor about that,” she said.

“That would be great as a Phase II,” Scutella said.

Other expansion could spread the program to other areas.

“I like what you’re doing here,” Randy Rossey, representing the city’s redevelopment authority, said. “I’m excited about it. If this program takes off, perhaps we could expand it to the west side as well.”

He said the authority is looking forward to being involved in a project that involves redevelopment and “being known for something other than purchasing things and tearing them down.” Part of the RDA’s task is dealing with blight in the city.

For now, the proposed Eastern Gateway Renaissance Grant Program is limited to businesses.

“We want to keep this simple,” chairman Don Nelson said.

“Simplicity is important,” Dilks said. “We can’t cover ourselves for everything.”

The planners decided to fund projects after completion. The approved applicant would bring paid invoices to the city with before and after photographs of the work. The grant would then cover half of the total cost up to a maximum grant of $7,500.

City Administrator Mary Ann Nau suggested that the city provide some kind of ongoing inspection of the work to be funded.