Members of the Hamburg Economic Development Team said Monday that they hope to get the City of Hamburg’s downtown area included in a network that will provide free business development advice to owners.
Expanding on a previous presentation HEDT made to the Ashley County Quorum Court, HEDT spokesperson Inez Barnes said that, if successful, the group’s application to be part of the Main Street Arkansas program will benefit the city in cost-free technical assistance.
“They will look at our buildings and give us interior and exterior design at no cost to us at all,” Barnes said.
The program would also help businesses redesign their layouts for better business efficiency, she said.
The Main Street program operates on what it calls a four-point approach that includes organizing communities so that everyone works together to renew a downtown area; promoting the designated area through marketing and events; offering design improvements to entice reinvestment in the downtown area; and offering market analysis so that cities can develop long-term plans, attract new businesses and support its traditional merchants.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation developed the four-point approach during the 1980s to help cities save their historic commercial architecture and areas that serve as the visual fabric of their communities.
When Public Works Director Jimmy Hargis asked if the Main Street program would help business owners who have empty spaces on the Hamburg Square, HEDT member Shann Carpenter said the program would work with any business owner in the designated district.
“They would help him get his business plan going free of charge, and if he wanted to renovate that building they would give them that plan free of charge,” Carpenter said, noting that owners would still have to finance any renovations or construction themselves.
In seeking to join the Main Street program, the HEDT will try to include more of the downtown area than just the Square in the district.
“The Square is on the (National) Historic Register as a square. We have 25 or 26 buildings in that area,” Barnes said, telling the council that the application would also take in the area around the former Presbyterian Church, around the courthouse and more.
“(The courthouse) is not in the historic area but we will add it,” she said.
As part of the application, HEDT will have to raise at least $5,000, Barnes said, which will include a request for funds from the city. She told the council HEDT would request the funds when it was accepted into the program.
The application is due March 31, and in April or May the team will have to do a video presentation in support of it. The team will be working on the video production soon, Barnes said.
“We are excited to have a professional videographer who is going to come work with us pro bono,” she said. “We are really happy about that.”
This round for applications is the first the Main Street Arkansas program has opened in four years.
“We are super excited to apply for this,” Barnes said. “It will benefit our city in so many ways.”
Unrelated to the Main Street application, the council also gave the HEDT its blessing to apply for a grant to help develop the Square.
Carpenter said that the grant application, which is due March 9, is through the Rural Arkansas Community Grant Program and is for funds intended to develop park and picnic areas.
The HEDT will be requesting a grant of $11,527 to provide more picnic tables for the Square area, which is used during the weekly Food Truck Friday event, the monthly farmer’s market, the Hamburg Harvest Festival, the Armadillo Festival, and Hamburg Holidays, among other events.
Carpenter said that after watching the tables that are already in that area at a recent event, “I saw them get a lot of use, so I feel like this would be a good use of money in our community.”
The grant is a 50-50 matching grant, meaning that HEDT will have to produce just under $5,800. Some of that cost will be covered in an in-kind contribution of labor from Carpenter and Sons Construction in assembling the tables, Carpenter said, and HEDT will be raising the balance.
As part of the group’s request Monday, the representatives asked that $1,000 of the money the city budgeted for Square upgrades be put toward the application. They also asked the council to adopt a resolution supporting the grant application since it has to be officially submitted through the city.
Councilwoman Derenda Stanley made a motion to grant both requests, and Councilman Drew Foote seconded it. The council voted to approve the request without dissent.
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