Tips for funding your bricks-and-mortar historic preservation project

By Anne Raines, Deputy Director, MHT

Our recent warm spell has been a welcome reminder that spring is just around the corner.  For those of us who are involved with historic buildings, spring means more than just crocuses and daffodils – it means repairs and maintenance!  Many historic property owners across the state are looking for funding this time of year, so MHT put together this primer on the basics of preservation funding for your bricks-and-mortar project.

FUNDING OPTIONS

MHT administers several grant and loan programs which assist what we refer to as “capital” (bricks-and-mortar) preservation activities.

  • MHT Historic Preservation Loan Program: The program provides low-interest loans for rehabilitation, acquisition, refinancing or predevelopment costs. MHT typically funds one to three projects a year for borrowers including nonprofit organizations, local governments, businesses and individuals, with preference given to projects with a high level of public benefit.  Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Key considerations: Loan amount will generally not exceed $300,000; property must be National Register listed or eligible for listing; conveyance of a perpetual preservation easement is required; business and individual applicants must demonstrate inability to secure funding on the private market.

Contact: Anne Raines, Deputy Director, MHT.

leeke-academy

Leeke Academy, in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood, received MHT Loan Program, MHT Capital Grant Program, and MHAA funding for a complete restoration.

  • African American Heritage Preservation Program (AAHPP): The AAHPP provides grants for acquisition, rehabilitation, new construction, and certain predevelopment costs (such as architect’s or engineer’s fees) for projects related to African American heritage. Projects are not required to be designated as “historic”.  Applicants can include nonprofit organizations, local governments, businesses and individuals, with preference given to projects with a high level of public benefit.  Dollar-for-dollar match is required except for nonprofit applicants.  Application deadline is July 15.

Key considerations: Grant amount will not exceed $100,000 per project per year; if the assisted property is National Register listed or eligible for listing, then conveyance of a perpetual preservation easement is required.

Contact: (For technical preservation issues) Anne Raines, Deputy Director, MHT; (for project scope and purpose) Maya Davis, Interim Director, Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture.

kennard-school

Kennard School in Centreville received AAHPP, MHAA, and MHT Capital Grant funding and is now in use as a community center.

  • Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) Grants: Grants of up to $100,000, with a required one-to-one match of non-state support, are available for capital projects, which can include acquisition, development (repair or alteration of an existing building, structure or site; or new construction), rehabilitation, restoration, and pre-development costs. Projects must be related to heritage tourism and located within one of the state’s 13 Certified Heritage Areas.  Only nonprofit organizations and government entities are eligible to apply. An Intent to Apply form is due at the end of January.

Key considerations:  Due to the competitive nature of the program, grants for capital projects average $54,000; the conveyance of a perpetual preservation easement may be required on certain historic properties.

Contact:  Find your local heritage area contact using the map and links here: http://mht.maryland.gov/heritageareas.shtml. You can also contact Jen Ruffner, Maryland Heritage Areas Program.

  • Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) Loans: Loans are available to nonprofit organizations, local jurisdictions, individuals and businesses to assist with the preservation of heritage resources and the enhancement of heritage attractions and visitor services located within a Certified Heritage Area. Eligible activities include acquisition, development, rehabilitation, restoration, leasehold improvements, and purchase of equipment, furnishings, and inventory.  Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Key considerations:  The maximum loan commitment made for any specific project is limited by the available uncommitted balance of the MHAA Financing Fund.  Up to 50 percent of the total project cost will be provided based on an assessment of the applicant’s financial need.

Contact:  Jen Ruffner, Maryland Heritage Areas Program.

  • MHT Historic Preservation (Capital) Grant Program: After a long hiatus, we might be able to welcome the return of Capital Grant funding in FY2018.  The program provides grants to nonprofit organizations, local jurisdictions, individuals and businesses for acquisition, rehabilitation, and pre-development costs related to properties listed on or eligible for the National Register.  The conveyance of a perpetual preservation easement is required for all assisted projects.  Dollar-for-dollar match is required except for nonprofit applicants.  If funding for the program is provided, additional information about the application process will be available on our grants main page in May 2017.

In addition to these programs, we often direct our partners and constituents toward the following programs based on their project-specific needs:

Finally, MHT’s own handout on Potential Funding Sources for Heritage Preservation Projects, which has recently been updated, covers a range of options available from national and private sources.

PITCHING YOUR PROJECT TO FUNDERS

Now that we’ve identified some options for funding, the next step is to write an application.  In our grant workshops, we often provide a tip sheet for grant writing in general.  However, for this post we wanted to provide some additional insights about how to think through, develop, and explain a rehabilitation or construction project in the context of a grant or loan application.

First, it is important for you to be clear about the basic parameters of the project.

  • What kind of project are you undertaking? (Acquisition, refinancing, rehabilitation, new construction, predevelopment?)
  • What is the scope of the entire project from start to finish? (Is it as simple as a roof replacement, or is it a complicated multi-phase rehabilitation project costing many millions of dollars?)
  • What will the entire project cost? (You may need to hire an architect or project manager to help estimate costs for a very large project.  If you are undertaking a smaller project, we generally recommend that you obtain at least one price proposal in order to make an accurate grant application.)

Next, you need to determine what funding options are available to you.

  • What funding sources & resources are available for your specific project and applicant type?
  • Is it advantageous for your application to break down the project into phases and apply for each phase individually, as you are ready to undertake it?
  • Will you need more than one grant? Are you expecting multiple, sequential grants from the same program?  Funders always like to see that applicants are trying to secure funding from diverse sources – including their own fundraising.

Once you are writing a grant application, you will need to develop a clear scope of work – what are you including in the scope of this particular grant request?  What isn’t included?

  • Define a project that meaningfully relates to the grant amount: break it down. Typically a grant application will be more successful if it allows the completion of one discrete work item than if it provides for only partial progress toward one or more items.
  • Have a plan for how you will pay for any required matching funds and other costs that are necessary to complete the project. Funders want to know that you will be able to complete the whole project successfully.
  • Develop a meaningful and reasonable project schedule or timeline. What work can you reasonably accomplish within the specified grant performance period?  (Most grants are time-sensitive and have specific beginning and ending dates.)  According to your project timeline, are you READY for a grant?
  • Will your organization be able to manage the project (and the potential grant), or do you need to hire a project manager or architect? Know what expertise the project requires and assemble a strong project team.

Finally, convince the funder that they should fund you. Most funding programs are very competitive, and it is up to you to demonstrate that your project is important, and that it needs to happen NOW.

  • How do your goals reflect those of the funder? Don’t feel embarrassed to write about your larger goals and aspirations.
  • Be convincing about the significance and urgency of the project.
  • Review and understand the program’s selection criteria. Address them clearly and concisely!
  • Show your commitment to the project: how will it be sustained into the future? (How will you protect the investment that you are asking the funder to make?)
  • Show the funder that you have cultivated widespread support for your project from:
    • the community
    • your local, state, and federal representatives
    • any local, state, or federal agencies that may be involved
    • other organizations that may have similar goals

Now that you know what funding possibilities are out there, and you know what funders are looking for in an application, why not get started?  Can your project really wait another year?

sumner-lodge-may-24-001

Charles Sumner GAR Post #25 in Chestertown in 2001, before its rehabilitation using MHT Capital, AAHPP, and MHAA grant funds.

 

 

 

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