BERLIN – Town officials are hoping to secure nearly $1 million in grant funding from the state to make improvements to several areas around the Berlin Rail Station.
Berlin Town Council authorized Town Manager Arosha Jayawickrema to apply for the Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DECD) CT Community Challenge Program, which plans to award $1 to $10 million grants with a 50% local funding match.
“A lot of different groups are involved in this,” Jayawickrema told elected officials. “From the Y to Newport Realty Group to the Board of Education to our finance folks and corporation counsel.”
The town manager went on to recognize Berlin Economic Development Coordinator Jim Mahoney for his work on the grant application.
“Jim has spent a lot of time putting all the pieces together and I just want to acknowledge his efforts to try and get more funding for the town,” Jayawickrema said.
CT DECD did not award the town a grant during round one of the program last spring, because previous proposals did not meet minimum equity requirements. In a second attempt to win funds, the town has proposed three separate projects with equitable funding matches.
Specifically, the Newport Realty Group has proposed building 10 additional mixed-income housing units, five of which would be affordable, at 848 Farmington Ave., across from the train station. The company would provide an equitable contribution of $270,000 for the project.
In cooperation with Newport Realty, the Kensington Fire Department and the Berlin Land Trust have proposed improvements to the area behind the property, including a bridge and open space trails. This would also include repaving the firehouse’s driveway. The town has allocated $80,000 for the work and is requesting grant monies in the amount of $50,000.
The third portion of the request is for an additional $375,000 to fund improvements at 362 Main St., where Berlin’s Transition Academy is located. The YMCA owns the building and is leasing it to the town in exchange for use of several classrooms in McGee Middle School and Hubbard Elementary School for its daycare program. The Y invested over $355,840 in improvements at all three locations, which will serve as the equitable contribution. Planned improvements for the transition academy would include the paving of an outdoor parking lot, landscaping, outdoor furniture, a remodeled kitchen, central air and a new floor.
The DECD is expected to award over $100 million in Community Challenge Grants to improve the livability and vibrancy of communities throughout the state over the next several years.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.