LaFayette DDA talks renewal funding

LaFayette DDA talks renewal funding

April 12th, 2012 by Mike O'Neal in Local Regional News

Even during tough economic times, funding is available to help cities and citizens restore and renovate downtown districts.

That is what Alan Dickerson, of the Georgia Cities Foundation, told members of LaFayette's Downtown Development Authority last week.

Dickerson described three programs designed to support capital projects: the Georgia Cities Foundation Revolving Loan Fund, The Downtown Development Revolving Loan Fund and the Georgia Cities Foundation Green Communities Fund.

The Georgia Cities Foundation has a revolving loan fund that allows DDAs to apply for loans ranging between $50,000 and $250,000 which they, in turn, can use to carry out approved activities.

Eligible projects can include real estate acquisition, building rehabilitation, new construction, green space and parks. Funds cannot be used for operating expenses and administration, local revolving loan funds, public infrastructure projects, streetscapes and facade projects.

Dickerson said the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Downtown Development Revolving Loan Fund is a similar resource. It too is intended to aid revitalization efforts by providing below-market-rate financing to fund projects in core historic downtown areas.

Major differences between the two funding sources are that the DCA's can be used for working capital or to establish a revolving loan fund; it is not restricted to cities; and it is aimed at creating/retaining jobs in a downtown.

"These loans aren't to compete but rather to partner with local banks and property owners," Dickerson said.

A fairly typical project might have 10 percent of funding provided by owner equity, 40 percent by the GCF or DCA and 50 percent by a conventional lender.

"So far, about 80 projects in 41 cities have been completed," Dickerson said.

The two pools of funding, GCF and DCA, can be combined, making a total of $500,000 available for consideration for below-market-rate loans, he said.

Michael Lovelady, chairman of LaFayette's Downtown Development Authority, asked if "phased projects" were eligible for such funds. The reply was that applications for projects should be for the overall work, not separate for each segment.

Members of the DDA paid particular attention when Dickerson spoke of the GCF's Green Communities Fund.

That program targets downtown buildings being made more energy efficient. Suitable projects would include installing insulation or other energy-saving improvements during renovations or new construction.

"The most common use is to fund conversion or installation of high-efficiency heating and cooling systems," Dickerson said.

Loans range in size from $10,000 to $250,000 with larger projects eligible for 75 percent funding while small projects could receive as much as 90 percent of their funding from such loans, he said.

Those attending the meeting expressed interest in finding out more about how the local development authority could leverage available funding sources to help reinvigorate LaFayette's downtown.

"It gives a good starting point to explore options," City Councilman and DDA member Chris Davis said.