Wheeling Heritage is proud to announce its new Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program. This program was conceived several years ago, as our organization was considering how to provide gap funding to historic rehabilitation projects across the city.
We know that larger grants are often competitive and difficult for individuals to apply for, so to mitigate some of those issues, we set out to create a user-friendly program that would be administered locally, to local applicants. We know that the best judge of a project is someone familiar with the community and market, and so the intent of this program was to support projects across the City of Wheeling, judged by those familiar with the needs of our community.
With this in mind, we applied for federal funding from the National Park Service – specifically, the Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant. In 2021, Wheeling Heritage was notified that the organization would be awarded $750,000 to distribute over three years. As one of the largest federal grants the organization has received, we hope to see a significant impact from the distribution of these funds.
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The purpose of this program is twofold: to support downtown commercial redevelopment and catalytic neighborhood projects. So, what does that mean?
Downtown redevelopment projects are projects happening anywhere within Downtown Wheeling that support a thriving business district. These buildings must be individually listed on the National Register, or contribute to a historic district. The projects must be commercial redevelopments, with priority given to projects that enhance the public experience in Downtown Wheeling and encourage heritage tourism.
Catalytic neighborhood projects are buildings that are being redeveloped in North, South, East, or Center Wheeling, or Wheeling Island, that will not only be enhanced themselves but have the potential to spur additional development in their neighborhood. We can all probably think of some blighted buildings that, by remaining empty, seem to snuff out any light on the street. The subgrant funds hope to address this issue and help transform public perception of our urban neighborhoods. The projects can be commercial or residential, with priority going to those whose investment can spur a multiplier effect of investment in their neighborhood.
The goal of this application is to be comprehensive, so applicants are encouraged to take their time preparing their responses. Given the size of the awards ($15,000-$100,000), we expect this program to be quite competitive. Applicants do not need prior grant writing experience to be competitive, but they do need to prepare a thorough application that answers questions of impact as specifically as possible.
The first cycle of the Wheeling Heritage Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program will remain open until October 1, with the first round of awardees being announced before the end of the year.
So, Why Wheeling?
For Wheeling to be awarded these funds among a large pool of national applicants is very encouraging. Our historic architecture is extremely significant and worthy of preservation. Wheeling has long been a city of creative innovators and entrepreneurs, and we hope to see that spirit reflected in the applications.
The goal of this program is not to support another office building, it is to provide catalytic funds to those more complicated preservation projects that need a little extra support. Our hope is that by the time this program ends in 2024, Wheeling’s old buildings will have given the city new life.
• Betsy Sweeny is the director of heritage programming at Wheeling Heritage. She is an architectural historian, yoga teacher and dog mom to her rescue dog Marshall.