BIGP applications due June 27

By Nikki Blankenship -

Main Main Street Portsmouth (MSP) and the City of Portsmouth are looking to help local businesses by offering grant funding that will help to update and renovate downtown structures.

Through MSP’s Building Improvement Grant Program (BIGP), many Boneyfiddle buildings will continue to stand as a testament to Portsmouth’s rich past and as a foundation for the future.

“This project is one of the greatest preservation initiatives in Southern Ohio and shows the City’s commitment to preserving downtown history and a strong belief in our local business owners and their economic potential,” MSP executive director Joseph Pratt stated.

Pratt further explained that the program offers a 50/50 matching grant to downtown property owners looking to make building renovations and improvements.

“The pride business owners have for the historical properties in downtown is admirable,” Pratt stated. “In many cases, there is a lot of work to be done. We see business owners constantly striving to pour money into these properties to keep them standing for years to come. We are happy to assist in this when we can.”

BIGP first started eight years ago as a pilot program through Heritage Ohio, the organization that oversees Main Street program across the state. Heritage Ohio started the program in Portsmouth with a focus on historical preservation. The program worked so well that it is now a common program in many Ohio communities.

Seeing the impact on the downtown, the City approached MSP early on, asking to continue the program. Since that time, BIGP has been entirely funded through City investments.

As to the agreement with the City of Portsmouth, Main Street Portsmouth receives $50,000 a year, of which nearly all instantly goes back into development. MSP awards $25,000 of city funding in building improvement grants each year. $15,000 of the funding then goes into downtown design elements including mulch, flowers, urns, pots, watering contracts, park upkeep and nearly all other downtown beautification work. The remaining $10,000 goes into MSP’s general fund to be used for events and overhead.

“To date, the city has given us over $200,000 for the program and has caused reinvestment improvements totaling over $500,000,” Pratt stated.

Though the funding has gone to assist with many worthwhile projects, Pratt says more projects keep popping up.

“We are seeing a greater need to expand that amount, not necessarily through City funding,” Pratt said as he described the downtown “renaissance” he has been witnessing.

Pratt says Second Street is now nearly at capacity and the increase to business on Chillicothe Street has it looking more how Second Street did years ago. He added that businesses are also building up, occupying more of the upper floors.

“We are just getting to the point where we are seeing all this development,” Pratt commented.

It is through grant program such as the BIGP that such development has been made possible. MSP awarded grants to five projects in 2016.

“The work totaled downtown reinvestment to the sound of $70,087.90,” Pratt confirmed.

Once all grant applications have been turned in, a board rates projects based upon benefit to business, employee counts, initiative shown by property owners, importance to maintaining the structure and several other factors. The application process is lengthy; however, once completed business owners have a better tool for their project. However, applicants are not in the process alone. MSP can offer varied assistance, even including contact with the City’s design and review board.

“There’s a long list of tools available,” Pratt stated. “We want to help people make this an easy process.”

MSP is also willing to help and advise property owners that are not seeking grant funding or who would not qualify for the program because work is interior, there is a lien on the property or there are property taxes owed. Pratt explained that MSP is eager to help all property and business owners to thrive in anyway they can be of assistance.

Grant applications are due by June 27.

“Applications need to be on the Main Street desk by 4 p.m.,” Pratt stated. “

The grants must be exterior projects only. The committee scores each application on need, merit, and value, and decides where the funds are best spent to maintain historical relevance and encourages downtown traffic. Grant applications can be found by visiting the organization’s website under the properties tab or picked up in the MSP office. If the office is empty, applications will be left in the bin by the door.

“We hope to have all applications in and graded before July, so we can announce who will benefit from the program,” Pratt said. “We are a little late in the game this year, but we have been focusing on restructuring some of the process. Next year, we will have a smooth timeline, along with roundtable opportunities for local property owners to sit with us and receive help with their grant.”

By Nikki Blankenship

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.