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HEAL Grant Updates: A Huge Opportunity for Qualifying Downtown Projects.

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | August 28, 2023
HEAL Program

The Department of Commerce and Kansas Legislature are working through the Office of Rural Opportunity, Kansas Main Street and the State Historic Preservation Office for a new round of the HEAL (Historic Economic Asset Lifeline) program. HEAL allows for grants to support building and/or façade redevelopments. There are several guidelines that must be followed to access funds, and below are the highlights:

  • The grant must apply towards the rehabilitation to activate portions of a commercial building in a downtown area. Converting a vacant storefront to active business use, adding upper story housing, or other conforming use patterns can be facilitated through the grant.
  • The property development must conform to applicable Kansas Main Street design guidelines and/or historic preservation standards.
  • The project must demonstrate need and a clear positive economic impact for the area.
  • Maximum grant requests are $30 per developed square foot for a maximum of $100,000.
  • Individual for-profit property owners are not allowed to apply; applications must be submitted by local economic development agencies and affiliated organizations ON BEHALF of property owners.
  • Projects/property owners must demonstrate a cash match to facilitate the completion of the project through third party reporting (a letter from a bank).
  • Signed letters of project intent must be included for the property owner and submitting organization (Emporia Main Street).
  • Applications are open now, and application windows close on November 14th.
  • All construction costs prior to any award agreement, and costs associated with Architects, Engineers, or other professional services are ineligible for grant funding.
  • Construction on the project must begin no later than April 1, 2024 and must be completed no later than April 1, 2026. Tenants must be in place no later than May 1, 2026.
  • Qualifying communities may be granted a single project in a funding round.
  • HEAL only applies to pre-existing structures. New infill buildings are not eligible for the program.
  • Click HERE for additional information.

So, what does this mean for you? Emporia Main Street is committed to assisting property owners in the area with resources to revitalize structures. To access HEAL, we will need to work collaboratively on the following issues:

  • Understand that HEAL isn’t for deferred maintenance. This grant program is in place to activate structures or parts of structures to facilitate more economic activity in downtown areas.
  • You must have access to, and the willingness to, commit your own cash as a match to initiate and finish the project. If you aren’t willing/able to take out a bank loan for the rehabilitation of your building, the HEAL grant probably isn’t for you.
  • There are some clear design standards you must adhere to. We often say “other people’s money, other people’s rules”, and if you aren’t willing to play by the design rules you won’t have access to the grant dollars.
  • You must adhere to the timelines set forth in the program. If you don’t think you can start the project on time, or you don’t think you can finish in the allotted time, this program probably isn’t for you.
  • There are technical, planning, and reporting details that take time to process. Emporia Main Street will offer ONE letter of support, and our willingness to submit information is based on your commitment to a quality development. If you are interested in a HEAL grant for your building, CLICK HERE to contact Emporia Main Street. We will set a development meeting to start the process and answer questions you may have.

Grants of this size and scope are rare, and there are some specific rules that require some necessary insight (design guideline adherence, for example). However, HEAL has been an awesome program for the state that has produced some tremendous results in Kansas communities. If you have a project in mind, reach out to Emporia Main Street and let’s get more great things done!

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.