City redevelopment agency showcasing a neighborhood improvement program that features grants up to $18K

The city of Merced Redevelopment Agency (RDA) said it's showcasing a program that improves neighborhoods, creates jobs and results in better living conditions for owners and renters.

The Residential Fa├žade Improvement Grant Program is available to property owners who need funds to improve residences. The project is targeting the Midtown Distract, an area covering MLK to G Street and 18th to 27th streets.

Grants of up to $18,000 per parcel are available for exterior improvements visible from a public street.

Two grants have been approved this year, including 114 and 122 W. 20th St., where construction is underway.

For more than two weeks, the city said in a news release, Murphy Brothers Construction of Merced and their subcontractors have been working to improve the site at 114 and 122 W. 20th St. owned by Bruce and Deborah Erickson.

The contractors bought the doors, windows, roofing materials and paint locally, and have used local subcontractors to help with the work, the release said.. The owners have spent $4,000 of their own money to install additional windows.

The 8-unit apartment complex was half-empty, but the owner expects it will fill up once the improvements are finished, the city said. The city said the project was approved by the RDA board in November 2008. The RDA sets aside 20 percent of its budget for affordable housing. A portion of those funds are dedicated to a grant program with the Agency Board putting aside $180,000 to fund the experimental program.

Staff has been generating interest in the Midtown District, MLK to G Street and 18th Street to 27th Street. The 2007 Downtown Strategy calls for the revitalization and rehabilitation of this district in addition to preserving historical structures and improving the general condition of existing homes.

To qualify, properties must be located within one of the two project areas (Project Area II and Gateways Redevelopment Project Area), the news release continued. The property must be structurally sound, and the owner must agree to the conditions of the program. Also, the property owner must present a comprehensive project that addresses any deficiencies on the property and generally improve the visual aesthetics of the property. City staff is available to coach the property owner through the process, the news release said.