Despite playing a pivotal role in organizing the Downtown Revitalization Project, the Clarinda Chamber of Commerce was not eligible to participate in that program. Therefore, the Chamber of Commerce is now seeking two grants to help fund renovations to its building.
During its meeting March 24, the Clarinda City Council voted to approve having the city apply for the grants on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce. The applications were for a $100,000 Community Catalyst Building Remediation Grant and a $20,000 Iowa Economic Development Authority Rural Innovation Grant. The grant applications are due April 15.
Southwest Iowa Planning Council representative Alexis Fleener met with the council Wednesday to review the details of the grants. The Southwest Iowa Planning Council is assisting the Clarinda Chamber of Commerce in completing the grant applications.
“A couple years ago the downtown kind of got a facelift with a renovation project. The Clarinda Chamber was a big part in coordinating those efforts, but due to the nature of that grant and the restrictions, the chamber was not eligible to participate in that grant,” Fleener said. “Right before the council meeting I did drive around the square and admired all the buildings and the work that has been done. But the Clarinda Chamber building, just visually, is one of the buildings on the square that could use some work.”
Along with revitalizing the appearance of the Chamber of Commerce building, Fleener said the catalyst grant focuses on downtown development, commercial development and adding residential unit to the upper stories of such buildings. Therefore, the grant would help create apartments in the underutilized space above the Chamber of Commerce office.
Since this is a state grant, Fleener said there would be less requirements and restrictions than were imposed by the Community Development Block Grant Clarinda received for the prior revitalization project. Also, the city would not be required to provide matching funds for the grant project.
“It is a $100,000 grant with the expectation the grant is matched by at least $100,000. Since it’s the Clarinda Chamber’s project, they would be responsible. They are working on solidifying the rest of the match,” Fleener said.
Fleener said the Chamber of Commerce is also collecting quotes for the work involved and drafting a budget for the project. Since state funds are involved, Fleener said the intent of the program is to support “pre-shovel-ready” projects.
This means no construction contracts will be awarded until the necessary grant funds to finance the project are secured, Fleener said.
Furthermore, Fleener said the Chamber of Commerce would be able to use multiple other grants and funding sources to meet the $100,000 match. One of those matching grants could be the Rural Innovation Grant.
“The Catalyst Grant is a fairly new grant program, but the Rural Innovation Grant is even newer. We’re going into the second year of that grant. What makes this project a good fit for this project is we have support from the school district that this work will done by a contractor, but also it will be done with the help of the high school students in the Building Trade Program,” Fleener said.
The grant is available to rural communities to assist them in meeting their housing and development needs. Fleener said the grant also wants to focus on partnerships within communities like the one the Chamber of Commerce would have with the Clarinda Community School District on this project.
“This grant would be like the cherry on top. It would really help the chamber out with funds,” Fleener said.
As for managing the two grants, Fleener said the city would not be responsible for tracking the invoices and keeping the funds separated. Instead, the Clarinda Chamber of Commerce would pay the bills and then submit invoices to the city for reimbursement.