Opp pursuing grant funds for preservation

Published 1:34 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Opp City Council is considering applying for a grant that could earn them hundreds of thousands of dollars towards renovating historical buildings.

Opp City Clerk Connie Smith presented the idea of applying for the Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program at the city council’s regular meeting Tuesday.

The HRSP is a new Historic Preservation Fund grant program created in fiscal year 2018 that supports the rehabilitation of historic properties and fosters economic development of rural communities. This program funds physical preservation projects for historic sites, including architectural and engineering services through subgrants to communities determined rural by the US Bureau of the Census.

“This grant is through the National Park Service,” Smith said. “And it is anywhere from $100,000 to $750,000 to be used towards the preservation and renovation of historical buildings.”

There are only 10 communities chosen throughout the entire United States and each community must have a commission with seven members.

“The people on the council must have knowledge in several categories,” Smith said. “Including history, architecture, architectural history, American studies, cultural geography, cultural anthropology, planning, archeology, law or a related historical preservation field. They will have to have training as well which can be done by the Alabama Historical Commission if somebody didn’t have the training they needed and wanted to be on the committee.”

The grant money would come through the city and then be dispersed to the property owners, Smith said.

There will also have to be an ordinance in place for Opp to be considered for the grant.

“That is the main thing that we need to have to apply,” Smith said. “If we have the ordinance, than it will make our chances way more likely to receive the grant.”

Once the community applies, they are given the chance to apply year after year if they don’t receive the grant.

“It is a pretty competitive grant process,” Smith said. “With only 10 communities in the nation receiving it, but we can apply every year after this first time if we don’t receive it.”

Currently only 29 communities in Alabama have received the grant.

Eligible properties must be listed in the National Register of Historic Places or determined eligible for listing at the National, State, or local level of significance and located within rural (non-urban) communities with populations less than 50,000. States, Tribes, Certified Local Governments, and non-profits will apply for funding that will in turn be subgranted to rural communities in their jurisdictions.

Smith said that in Opp, buildings such as the Hart and Mizell buildings qualify as historical places and most of downtown on Main Street as well.

“We are going to try and push this,” Opp mayor Becky Bracke said. “People always ask about grants and we are always looking, so I think this would be a great opportunity for the City of Opp.”