Phoenix given $249,500

April 27, 2010

By AMANDA BUCK - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Harvest Foundation has awarded a $249,500 grant to the Phoenix Community Development Corp. “as part of ongoing efforts aimed at revitalizing uptown Martinsville,” according to a news release.

The corporation was initiated last summer with Harvest support to work with the public and private sectors on revitalization efforts in Henry County and Martinsville. It aims to spur real estate development with a goal of growing and expanding business opportunities and preserving affordable housing in the community, officials have said.

According to the news release, the grant will be used to fund “pre-development work related to potential real estate projects in uptown.”

Jim Johnson, chairman of the Phoenix board of directors, said pre-development work would include engineering, architectural and marketing studies for potential projects.

Johnson said in February that redeveloping the former Henry Hotel in uptown Martinsville would be the corporation’s initial focus. On Monday, he said Phoenix has not yet determined what projects it will focus on. The emphasis is uptown, he said, but the group is “open to any project in Martinsville/Henry County.”

The corporation’s 14-member board is in the final stages of selecting an executive director, Johnson said. Two finalists have been named, and a search committee will make a recommendation to the entire board within the next 10 days, he said.

There were no local candidates for the position, Johnson said.

After an executive director is onboard, Johnson said, he anticipates the corporation will make an announcement about its next steps.

“There is a real estate committee, and that makes recommendations to the board as to what projects they’d like to see done,” Johnson said. “We’d certainly prefer to wait until we hire an executive director to get his or her input since (he or she) would be in charge of the projects.”

According to the release, pre-development activities relate mostly to gathering professional assessments and documentation that help determine a real estate project’s potential design, cost and viability. The information then is used to attract other funders and investors and build the interest of potential tenants, the release said.

“Pre-development is the necessary middle step between the community planning process that took place uptown over the last several months and the highly anticipated implementation phase that will occur over the coming years,” said Jeffrey Mansour, senior program officer at The Harvest Foundation. “It will also help Phoenix CDC secure outside investment in our community at a time when it needs it most.”

Johnson said the grant is good news for the corporation “and hopefully really good news for the community.”


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