NORWICH — In the midst of Phase 1B of improvements and renovations in Norwich's Museum District, Friends of the Museum District have announced the Curb Appeal Program (CAP) will be expanding for 2022.
The program, which is funded by the Norwich Building Tomorrow (NBT) Foundation, aims to help residents within a designated area of the Museum District cover the cost of exterior home improvements.
An informational meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26, at the Northeast Classic Car Museum. Attendees can enjoy light refreshments while learning more about the program, eligibility criteria, and the application process, as well as take home brochures about CAP and applications for improvement projects.
In 2021, the Curb Appeal Program's eligible area was only on Rexford Street, spanning from the Broad Street intersection to Silver Street. This year the eligible area has grown significantly, and property owners are now eligible for up to $18,000 in grant reimbursement.
"Last year’s program was more of a 50/50 match, so the foundation would reimburse the property owner 50 percent of their improvement cost, up to a maximum of $5,000," explained Friends of the Museum District Co-Chair Pegi LoPresti, who is overseeing the grant program. "This year we’ve talked the foundation into being actually much more generous, and they are now doing a 75 percent reimbursement, which means that property owner’s only eligible to pay for the 25 percent, and the maximum grant amount is now $18,000."
"So that can significantly make an impact in this area for homeowners looking to do improvements to the exteriors of their homes, all with the idea of furthering the beautification efforts in the Museum district itself," said LoPresti. "So we’re just very happy that the Norwich Building Tomorrow Foundation is being so generous."
The eligible area includes a portion of Rexford Street, from the North Broad Street intersection down to the corner of River Street; North State Street and State Street, from Rexford Street to Mitchell Street; and Silver Street, spanning from Gold Street to the Berry Street intersection.
According to LoPresti, the NBT Foundation has allotted $150,000 for this year's round of the Curb Appeal Program. Eligible projects include decorative entrance features, such as lighting, mailboxes, and house numbers, and much more.
"Aesthetic fencing, we cover that; landscaping and new sidewalks; doors, windows, shutters, whether it’s the addition, repair, or the restoration of those things. Exterior painting or power washing of your house; adding architectural details, whether it’s the addition of those details, repairing them, or restoring them," said LoPresti.
Ineligible projects range from anything that damages the building, projects that are either inappropriate or incompatible with the historic context of the neighborhood, interior home improvements, general home maintenance such as sealing or repaving driveways, installation of chain link fencing, and signage.
"We’re really looking for things that enhance the curb appeal within the Museum District area. So obviously this was created to encourage the revitalization of that neighborhood by assisting the property owners with exterior improvements, ideally," said LoPresti.
Additionally, projects should be completed within six months of an application being approved, unless granted an extension by the Friends of the Museum District.
"We’d like to see some significant improvements in the area in the 2022 calendar year. With the whole idea of kicking this off now is, we jump into warmer temperatures and hopefully people being able to get contractors to start projects, the idea is ideally we would like to see these projects happen within a six month timeframe," said LoPresti. "We know given constraints with contractors at this time, that might a little aggressive of a schedule, but we are looking to work with the property owners as much as we can."
More information on the Curb Appeal Program and grant applications can be found on norwichnewyork.net, under the "What's New" tab. LoPresti emphasized that the applications are fairly simple, and said that so far no applications for the CAP have been denied.
"Essentially it’s a PDF fillable application, and all the applications would then get forwarded to me via email or snail mail. From there they then go to the foundation in order for approval or denial," said LoPresti. "They’re basically giving a brief description of their project, they’re talking about what their anticipated project budget is. They don’t have to include quotes or anything like that once they apply, you know it's basically giving them the upfront heads up."
"Please take some photographs, tell us what you’re intending to do, and give us a ballpark figure of what you think you’re going to expense on this project," she added.
After an application is approved, the property owner can then get started on their project. Once completed, a second application will need to be submitted in order to receive reimbursement.
"Once the project is completed, they would then submit a second application for reimbursement. It's a pretty simple reimbursement application, it just basically says what was the project that you completed, what was your total project cost, go ahead and submit some photographs for us and invoices from what you had done. They have to sign the application and then they send it in," LoPresti explained.
She also noted that all reimbursement grants over $600 are subject to New York State taxes, and approved applicants will receive a 1099 form from the foundation, and must complete a W9 form as well.
"It's a bit frustrating because it’s a foundation giving money to local residents for property improvements, and yet it can’t be considered a gift. It has to be taxed. So that’s a bit of a downside to it, but I tell you, everything else is an upside to the program."
LoPresti added that the Curb Appeal Program would not be possible without the Norwich Building Tomorrow Foundation, and it is truly helping to improve the area and create an even more cohesive feeling throughout it.
"[It's] all due to the generosity of the Norwich Building Tomorrow Foundation, and them making an investment in this community, to me, in such a significant way that is only going to continue to enhance the Museum District as a whole, and ultimately, hopefully bring more people to visit that district in the future," she said.
"I’d like to think that this is the start of bigger and better things that hopefully will continue," she added. "I can't speak on behalf of the foundation, but I just know the more interest we have and the more improvements we see, I would like to think that helps move to bigger and better opportunities moving forward."