Positive projects, success stories hallmark of CDBG program
LINCOLN, NEB. (April 17, 2009)- In 2008, Wayne city leaders decided that the historic downtown district could use a major facelift so they began investigating ways to improve the area. They applied for and received $30,000 in Community Development Block grant (CDBG) funding to support a Downtown Revitalization Program. The Nebraska Department of Economic Development administers the state program while the cities of Omaha and Lincoln receive separate allocations.
This week, Nebraskans statewide are celebrating Community Development (CD) Week, which highlights and touts the importance of the federal CDBG program, which for 23 years, has significantly impacted the basic community and economic development needs of communities throughout the nation. Governor Dave Heineman will host a special award ceremony and proclamation signing on April 16 at the Nebraska State Capitol to recognize the week of April 12-18 as CD Week here.
The City of Wayne has many things going for it: A strong business community, Wayne State College with more than 3,000 students enrolled, and an overall civic-minded population who are proud of every part of town. However, a November 2008 study detailed more than a dozen downtown areas for the city to focus improvement efforts on and suggested potential funding sources for each activity. Many of Wayne's ideas are equally applicable in rural communities statewide wanting to improve the places where they live, work, shop and play.
For example, an initial low-cost suggestion for improving the downtown's appearance was to improve the quality and quantity of signage in the area. Another suggestion was to update building facades in the area, some upwards of 100-years-old.
Another recommendation was to increase green space and connect existing trail systems to create a city-wide trail system. And not unlike many rural downtowns, Wayne's deteriorating sidewalks and alleys are a safety concern and no longer compliant with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).
An informal offshoot of the Downtown study reported that many college students were leaving Wayne during breaks and weekends, a problem that worsened when a local movie theatre closed its doors. The study suggested offering reduced rental rates for the community auditorium, building more downtown housing and parking, and providing downtown wireless Internet service for residents, businesses and customers to counterbalance the problem.
With the initial planning stage completed, Wayne is now implementing some ideas in the plan. For example in 2008, the city received $250,000 in CDBG funding to update ADA accessibility and for commercial rehabilitation. The city also matched the grant money by replacing a large section of dilapidated downtown sidewalk.
Communities statewide are invited and encouraged to celebrate and publicize CD Week at the local level. Housing, infrastructure, public works, and business development are a few areas that receive critical assistance through the CDBG program.
The National Community Development Association initiated national Community Development Week in 1986 to remind Congress of the importance of the CDBG program.
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