HARRISONBURG — Investors hoping to once again make the former Cassco ice plant a cool place to be got a boost this week in their redevelopment efforts.
Harrisonburg received a $500,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Industrial Revitalization Fund. The department made the award on Monday, and the city followed with an announcement Tuesday.
The funding, a low-cost loan, will go to private developers who are planning about $10 million in renovations to the 80,000-square-foot building at 217 S. Liberty St., just south of Bruce Street.
Plans to turn the building into a mixed-use facility have been in the works for years, but developers say the grant funding will be the catalyst that gets the project started.
The Cassco renovation was one of three projects to receive funding through the Industrial Revitalization Fund program this year. Another community in the Valley also was selected: Waynesboro will get $300,000 for improvements to, coincidentally, another ice plant.
The fund, established by the General Assembly in 2011, provides loans for construction projects to generate economic development. The program targets blighted properties in distressed communities.
“In this program’s first year, we see the beginnings of several derelict structures being brought back to life,” Bill Shelter, director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, said in a statement. “The funds not only restore vacant, unused buildings, but it will spur economic revitalization, bringing jobs and more private investment to communities that need it.”
For Harrisonburg and Cassco’s developers, 217 South Liberty LLC, the second time was the charm in obtaining funding through the program. The city unsuccessfully applied in 2011.
Harrisonburg sought the funding on behalf of 217 South Liberty because only government entities can apply. The most recent application was submitted in September.
Ande Banks, Harrisonburg’s director of special projects and grant management, said the details of an agreement between 217 South Liberty and the city have not been worked out. He expects City Council approval will be required.
Banks said the award approval was surprising given the competitive nature of the application process.
The Department of Housing and Community Development received 16 applications requesting $2.7 million, and only three awards totaling $900,000 were granted.
“We are certainly very excited to see these grant funds coming to a project of this magnitude, and certainly, extending the revitalization efforts out to Liberty Street is very welcome,” Banks said.
Barry Kelley, a partner in 217 South Liberty LLC and principal broker with Matchbox Realty and Management Services, said the funding allows the renovation to move forward.
“Now, we can pay architects and engineers to get this thing going,” he said.
Kelley estimated substantial completion of the project by December, with it wrapping up entirely by February or March of next year.
Kelley and his partners plan to leverage the revitalization funds with historic tax credits and other funding to bring new life to the building, which would have retail, residential and commercial space.
Kelley is also partners on a nearby project that would rehabilitate blighted properties at 126 and 128 W. Bruce St. The estimated $600,000 renovation would turn the properties into an office complex.
The Harrisonburg Planning Commission will hold a public hearing tonight at 409 S. Main St. on a rezoning request for the project. A rezoning request for the Cassco plant is pending.
Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or email@example.com