Community development grant may benefit Douglass Park

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COLUMBIA - A proposal to build an 11,000 square foot multi-purpose building in Douglass Park is on the Capital Investment Program (CIP) for the 2015 fiscal year.

The $1.2 million dollar project is still in its early stages and the main concern is funding. 

Randy Cole is the housing programs supervisor for Columbia's Community Development Department. He said the project qualifies for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) fund, an annual grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Cole said Columbia gets roughly $840,000 a year through the grant.

Projects funded by the CDBG must improve low- to moderate-income neighborhoods. Public infrastructure needs, community facilities, and affordable housing all qualify for this grant.

"In order for that project to receive funding," Cole said, "they'd have to submit an application, like our other agencies and local departments do, and then our volunteer commission would review that and vote on it based on how well it fits with our five-year plan as well as how it matches up against other applications."

The Columbia Community Development Commission reviews all funding applications and chooses which best fit with the Consolidated Housing and Community Development Plan, the commission's five-year plan for the city.

Jeff Radmer is a local realtor as well as a community development commissioner. He said the consolidated plan is like a master scheme for Columbia's urban development and that funding applications are weighed based on whether the programs fit into that scheme.

Radmer also said that resident participation in the finalization of the consolidated plan is not only encouraged, but required by HUD.

"We established, through surveys, priorities of people within the city and in those communities to try to decide what things they want to have done," Radmer said.

Cole said that the next five-year consolidated plan will have a 30 day comment period after the community development commission finalizes the plan. Residents are encouraged to provide feedback during this time.

If the funding for the Douglass Park multi-purpose building is approved, design for the new building will start in 2022 and construction will begin the following year.