Historic buildings, sites can draw on $10M
By Lou Ortiz
A $10 million fund will provide matching grants of up to $250,000 early next year to restore historic buildings and sites in Miami-Dade County.
"It's the first time we've had this," said author and historian Arva Parks. "It's the little projects that are also important. I think it's marvelous."
The matching-grant program is made possible through the $2.9 billion Building Better Communities general obligation bond program voters approved in 2004.
The county's Office of Capital Improvements together with the Office of Historic Preservation will administer the grants, which come on the heels of $54 million previously allocated through the bond program to restore historic sites.
For the matching-grant program, homeowners, non-profit groups and municipalities can apply if they have eligible properties, said Paula J. Musto, a spokesperson for the Capital Improvements office.
"This will be of great value to municipalities and non-profits, and churches can benefit from it," said Becky Roper Matkov, executive director of Dade Heritage Trust, South Florida's largest historic preservation organization.
She said the grants would have limited appeal to homeowners if stringent conditions are placed on monetary awards such as forbidding them from selling their property for 25 years.
County officials said possible conditions on monetary awards have not been made and are still under discussion.
Ms. Matkov, said examples of properties that could benefit from the grants include the Thalatta 1920s home on a 4-acre tract that was purchased by the village of Palmetto Bay, and Miami Beach Community Church on Lincoln Road.
"In those kinds of cases, I think it [the program] is going to be very beneficial," she said. "It will be an asset to the community. The grants double the money" used for restoration.
Ms. Parks said the grants could also help historic sites in Little Havana, Coconut Grove and West Grove, along with areas in the Miami area and on Biscayne Boulevard.
"Hopefully, we're going to see wonderful results," she said.
To qualify, a property must be designated or eligible for designation as a historic building or site by either the county, a municipality in Miami-Dade, the state, or the National Registry of Historical Places, officials said.
Projects that previously received funding from the bond program are not eligible.
A meeting for those interested in applying for grants will be held at 9 a.m. on Dec. 10 at Vizcaya Village, 3250 S Miami Ave. There will be an opportunity to get more information and ask questions, Ms. Musto said. The application deadline is Jan. 15.
Applications are available at the Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW First St., suite 2130, or on-line at www.miamidade.gov/build.
Ms. Musto said applications will be reviewed by a nine-member committee, comprised of county staff and citizens involved in historic preservation.
After the committee's review, the mayor will make his recommendations in March and forward them to the county commission, which will have the final say. Grant announcements are expected in April.
The grants will be based on the market value of the property. Those valued under $400,000 could request up to $100,000; property from $400,000 to $700,000 up to $150,000; and those over $700,000 could ask for up to $250,000, officials said.
Previous allocations for historic preservation included $44 million for the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and $10 million for 10 individual projects. Those projects included the Coral Gables Historic Museum, the Flagler Memorial Monument and the Redland Farm Life School.
"When you're looking at allocations by the county… preservation has gotten a small amount of funding," Ms. Matkov said. "I wish it had been much more. But I'm glad we'll have some funds in place to restore some historic properties."
Ms. Parks and county officials said preservation activists were instrumental in getting funds for preservation projects earmarked in the bond program and later helping to get the bond issue passed.
She added that securing funds for preservation projects is an ongoing process.
The effort begins with making people aware of the importance of individual historic districts and buildings, Ms. Parks said, then petitioning sources of funding at the federal, state and county levels.
"It never stops," she said. "People have to see the results and these grants make a difference."