Butler plans for $300K in grant money

| Saturday, July 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Redevelopment Authority of Butler expects to receive about $300,000 from the state this year in Community Development Block Grants, some of which it plans to use to improve the site of a hotel planned for the city's main street.

The city of Butler received that amount last year from the state Department of Community and Economic Development and expects a similar amount this year.

This year's grants still have not been announced.

“It's about what we expect to receive again this year,” said Art Cordwell, the authority's director. The largest portion of the grant will go toward the Center City Project, a $9.7 million plan that includes construction of an 80- to 90-room hotel and a Rite-Aid pharmacy.

The authority now owns the site of what will be a Spring Hill Suites hotel — it's now a parking lot — and is paying off the land's mortgage. The site is located on Main Street between East Cunningham and East Jefferson streets.

“The hotel will be a huge benefit to out downtown businesses. It makes it more likely that some of the vacant properties will be filled,” said Chelynne Curci, main street manager for Butler Downtown, a nonprofit grassroots revitalization initiative involving local citizens and members from business, education, government and community organizations.

Funds will be used for street improvements and for clearance and demolition, Cordwell said.

The project's developer is J.S. Capitol Construction Inc. of Rochester Hills, Mich. Project manager Paul Dunn declined to comment.

There is no hotel in the city of Butler. And while two new hotels will open next year in Butler Township, the area still has inadequate hotel space, Cordell said.

“Even when these three hotels are finished, this area will still need another 210 hotel rooms,” he said.

Seventy percent of the grant, about $246,000, is earmarked for low- and moderate-income residents, Cordwell said.

That money will be used for rehabbing single family residences code enforcement officers' salaries and maintenance and management of properties, he said.

The state is required to give the city funding based on its unemployment rate and high population of low income people, he said.

Block grant funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is usually administered by DCED.

The funds can be used for a wide range of activities, including housing rehabilitation, community facilities, infrastructure improvements, streets and sidewalks, public services, economic development activities, and planning, said DCED spokeswoman Lyndsay Frank.

HUD also provides block grant funds directly to 31 Pennsylvania cities, boroughs and townships in urban areas and to 16 urban counties. DCED plays no role in the allocation or administration of those funds.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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