Changes In The System

Just as things change on the local level, programs and priorities change on a statewide level. As I have written in previous articles, most new administrations try something a little different than the administration that preceded them.

The Corbett administration has changed the way that the Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program (RCAP) functions. There was a program name change to Redevelopment Assistance Capital Programs (RACP) (pronounced RACK-P). The changes did not stop there, it became more of a regular program and counted upon for development projects.

The program still relies on having a project that is included in legislation passed by both the state senate and house. You must have your project listed to be eligible for funding.  There are projects that have been include in many of the counties that are vague enough to fit the bill if you need to apply and do not have your project included in the legislation. I believe the last time they passed the legislation was in 2010.

Under previous administrations, the grant has been a source of money for large projects. There were times that the program had been brought under scrutiny because of the political nature of the distribution. However, for the most part the program has been a big help to people enabling many to do large projects and bring jobs and new development to certain areas.

The grant has good points and bad points. The good is that it provides up to 50 percent of the money needed for the project. The bad point is that you cannot package it with any state money. That means you will be a single source grant recipient unless you find some federal money to package in with the RACP. Trying to make those timelines work is kind of difficult… but it can be done.

Some of the line items that remain for Pottstown are as follows:

• Rehabilitation and construction of Gruber pool — $750,000.

• Land acquisition, design and construction of a parking garage in downtown Pottstown -— $1,102,000.

• Completion of a redevelopment project restoring the former PECO building — $500,000.

• Acquisition and redevelopment of properties within the Pottstown KOZ for an office park, parking garage and commercial and retail development — $1,500,000.

• Construction of performing arts center — $1,000,000.

• Purchase of existing facility for conversion into a borough garage — $1,500,000.

• Construction of a downtown parking garage — $2,000,000.

• Pottstown redevelopment authority, Washington neighborhood initiative revitalization project — 20,000,000.

• Acquisition and redevelopment of the former Bethlehem Steel site — $17,5000,000.

• Acquisition, redevelopment, construction and other related costs for the High and

• Evans Street property and Lessig Lot — 5,000,000.

There are 10 projects in Pottstown alone with a value of over $50,000,000 in available grant dollars. This will give you an idea of the scope of the funding available. There are 58 counties in Pennsylvania, all with multiple political subdivisions with grant allotments listed in the bill. 

If one of the projects were proposed for development, the process would be explored and analyzed to see if the funding was appropriate for the project. Let us look at a Parking Garage in Downtown Pottstown.  Since there are two grants, a two million and a one million one hundred thousand dollar grant, those grants could be added together to come up with a three million one hundred thousand dollar project. Three million would be half so the project would have to be a six million dollar project. 

There could be $1.1 million for acquisition and $2 million for the construction. The acquisition would have to be at least $2.3 million in order to use the grant fully and the construction would have to be a minimum of $4 million. 

Although no other state money would be available for the project, the Borough could then try to direct some federal dollars in the form of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars for handicapped access issues. Elevators are expensive but an application for $500,000 is not out of the question.

The $500,000 could go to write down the local share of the garage construction. If a garage could be built for $4 million, the local share could only be $1.5 million.  That $1.5 plus the acquisition would have to be spread out for 20 years (by regulation) through a loan if the borough did not have $1.5 million handy.

The RACP program has $125,000,000 budgeted annually for projects that are in the legislation. An application for $20,000,000 for the Washington Neighborhood initiative would have to be pared down some in order to be a realistic application.

The new system calls for business plan applications to be submitted for projects twice a year. The business plan is comprehensive and ensures that the projects are doable projects before the money is allotted. The application is very detailed asking questions about the project and the strategy of the community. 

Big projects do not come around that often but it is good to know that if there is interest in doing a project that was shelved a couple of years ago, that there are funding avenues.