Last Updated: Mar 31st, 2014 - 14:20:42

Grant clears way for downtown project
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Dec 11, 2013, 13:04

HOPEWELL — A plan to renovate a major building downtown has gotten a major boost from a state grant.

The city of Hopewell was one of five localities to be awarded an Industrial Revitalization Fund grant. The $387,900 grant will go toward the project that Evan Kaufman, director of the Hopewell Downtown Partnership, said will bring a coffee shop and art gallery to downtown Hopewell. 

On Tuesday, Gov. Bob McDonnell announced the release of the grants, totaling more than $2 million, to the five localities in Virginia, including Martinsville, Wise County Industrial Development Authority, St. Paul Industrial Development Authority, Hopewell and the town of Clifton Forge. 

“This program focuses on bringing derelict structures back to life,” McDonnell said in the press release. “By revitalizing vacant structures, we are encouraging economic growth in communities  that want new investments and creating new vitality for vacant buildings.” 

The IRF grant, which is part of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, is geared toward “vacant industrial structure whose poor condition creates physical and economic blight to the surrounding area in which the structure is located,” according to the department’s website. The maximum that can be awarded for the grant is $600,000 and the grant requires a one to one match. 

“I was very relieved,” Kaufman said of finding out about the grant. “We had been waiting for a while. We had been waiting for a big win. This will kind of change the game. It will be the largest project in downtown since the Beacon.” 

The grant will be used for the rehabilitation of the former Hopewell Furniture building, one of the largest on Broadway. The concept to bring new life to the building began months ago with the organization CAPUP, Capital Area Partnership Uplifting People, and President and CEO Thomas Wagstaff. 

CAPUP is part of Community Action Agencies, which are nonprofit organizations, both local and private, that work with the Community Action Program. CAP was developed in the 1960s by the Economic Opportunity Act, developed to “fight poverty by empowering the poor as part of the War on Poverty.” In 2009, CAPUP was designated as Hopewell’s official community action agency. 

Wagstaff and Kaufman spent months having conversations about plans for the large, vacant space. The plans include a coffee shop, which Kaufman said will also have food, wireless Internet access, and an art gallery, a space for artists to use galleries to work and also display their pieces. 

In addition to using the funds from the grant, Kaufman said he will be working closely with Wagstaff on further financing opportunities for the project, which is estimated to cost close to $1 million. He said the partnership will also be taking advantage of other tax incentives available to add to the project, such as historic tax credits, the Enterprise Zone grant and the local facade improvement grant. 

Once the approval comes through on the funding, which Kaufman said could take anywhere from two to three months, construction will soon begin on the building to transform it into a coffee shop and art gallery. 

Kaufman said he hopes for construction to begin in April or May of 2014 and be completed by the end of summer or the beginning of fall of that same year. 

Kaufman and the others involved in the project will also be meeting with architects to begin design work on the building. 

The next step for Kaufman will be to meet with an architect to begin design work on the building.  

“It’s a really great space for kind of a multi-use, multi-function building that we could do a lot of different things that the market would bear to really help energize the downtown and move the revitalization forward,” Kaufman said in October. 

With the efforts of Kaufman and the downtown partnership, revitalization continues to grow in the city of Hopewell. The partnership will also be receiving a $25,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to conduct a feasibility study on a specific downtown project. 

In addition, the partnership has another $25,000 grant pending. This grant will be split into what Kaufman calls “mini-grants.” These mini-grants will go toward downtown business and property owners to undertake interior rehabilitations and renovations. Part of that money will also be spent on business recruitment though an expanded website platform. 

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