January 4, 2019

Manchester dangles downtown redevelopment carrot

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Silk City Coffee at 763 Main St. in Manchester.
HBJ Photo | Steve Laschever
Gary Anderson, Manchester's director of planning and economic development, stands on the town's Main Street corridor, thriving with local shops, restaurants, even a town-owned “coworking” space, he says enhance its small-town charm.

Manchester is offering no-interest loans of $25,000 to $250,000 to entrepreneurs and landlords who invest in improving their downtown commercial spaces.

Town officials say the program is intended for current or potential downtown property owners with rehabilitation plans that transform not only their properties but collectively elevate the appeal of downtown as a whole as part of its "Downtown 2020'' initiative.

The "gap financing'' the town offers could trigger an outpouring of complementary private investment since all of downtown Manchester has been tagged one of Connecticut's 72 federally designated "opportunity zones.'' OZ investors can shield their capital gains from federal taxes for investing in the zones.

"Downtown is the heart of the Manchester community and we are excited to launch this initiative to make it even better,'' Mayor Jay Moran said.

Gary Anderson, the town's director of planning and economic development, said the town has earmarked a portion of the revenues from its landfill operations to fund the loans borrowers combine with other funding sources to satisfy building fire and health code issues, or upgrade them to accommodate new uses.

The loan pool is limited to a total of $750,000, with funds available this year and next, or until the pool is exhausted, Anderson said. Loan applications will be reviewed on a first-come-first-served basis.

Loans are repayable over 10 years, but, under special circumstances, a portion of the loan can be transferred to a grant, officials said.

Don DuBaldo, who chairs Manchester's Downtown Special Services District Board of Commissioners, said that "obtaining conventional financing for these historic buildings has been a challenge for years and we believe this 'gap financing' will be a big help."

For more information, visit www.downtown2020.com

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