Excerpt from Kent County News:

Main Street Historic Chestertown is offering a total of $40,000 in matching façade improvement grants to spruce up commercial buildings in the town’s historic district.

In this first year of the program, owners of downtown buildings or businesses may apply for grants covering 60 percent of the cost of their improvement project, up to a maximum grant of $20,000. The minimum grant is $500.

Kay MacIntosh, who manages Main Street Historic Chestertown as part of her duties as the town’s economic development and marketing coordinator, emailed a news release Monday announcing the grants.

Applications will be accepted any time after Feb. 12.

Funding for the grants is provided by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development through its Community Legacy program. Throughout the state, façade grants encourage building renovation, historic preservation and improved economic vitality for historic downtowns, according to the news release.

Chestertown’s façade improvement project will be administered by a three-member panel drawn from the Main Street Design Committee. Architect and historic preservationist Barton Ross will be the chairman of the review panel, which includes Ellen Hurst, a retail stylist and designer, and Joe Karlik, artist and graphic designer. Ed Minch will represent the Historic District Commission as a non-voting advisor on the panel.

Any owner of a commercial building in the Historic District, or a store owner who is a tenant of a building in the district and has permission from the building owner, can apply for funding. No government buildings or private residences are eligible.

The grants can apply to a range of improvements — from simple additions such as awnings, flower boxes, signage and painting — to more complex construction projects such as restoring an original façade or replacing windows.

To illustrate how the 60 percent grants apply: A property or business owner must make a minimum investment of about $834 to qualify for the minimum grant reimbursement of $500 (60 percent of $834).

If the improvement costs $2,000, the grant would reimburse $1,200. For $8,000 in expenses, it would reimburse $4,800. For all renovations costing $33,500 or more, the grant would reimburse the maximum amount of $20,000.

“Preference will be given to projects that restore a building’s historical integrity and improve the exterior appearance of a retail store or restaurant,” Ross said in the news release. “We also encourage coordinated efforts by contiguous properties.”

Applicants must apply for the grant before renovations begin and are asked to submit “before” pictures and detailed drawings of the proposed renovations, along with at least two bids from contractors.

Approved projects will be reviewed by the Maryland Historic Trust and the applicant will need to present plans to the local Historic District Commission for approval, as is required of any downtown renovation. Reimbursements will be based on actual project costs and will require proof of expenses.

“Façade grant programs have been effective in sparking improvements in small-town commercial centers across the country,” Ross said. “Main Street Chestertown is excited about helping property owners keep our own historic downtown looking fresh and inviting.”

To learn more about Main Street’s Façade Improvement program and to download the application documents, visit www.mainstreetchestertown.org or contact Main Street manager Kay MacIntosh by email at kay.chestertown@gmail.com and by phone at 410-778-2991.