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Gering signs redevelopment grant application
March 27, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Members of the Gering City Council authorized the mayor to sign an application to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development for a $350,000 implementation grant for downtown redevelopment.

The Community Development Block Grant is for implementing earlier recommendations from a study on the revitalization of the downtown area.

Twin Cities Development has been assisting Gering with the application process. Executive director Rawnda Pierce told council members the revitalization committee has been meeting since 2010 and has held several public meetings to gather input. That resulted in hiring a consultant to recommend ideas for improving the downtown area. That final report was presented to the council in February.

The money will be spent in four major categories. Commercial rehabilitation is for business owners to make improvements to their properties, including facades. Public facilities will include things such as mini parks, statues and signage directing people to the downtown area. Also under public facilities is the proposed paving of a parking lot north of the Civic Center on N Street.

Street improvements are another category. The consultant’s study recommended a “traffic diet” for downtown by reducing the four lanes of 10th Street traffic to three, with turning lanes.

The final category is the removal of architectural barriers to make downtown building more handicap accessible.

With the state grant of $350,000 and $250,000 in other funding brings the total project cost to around $600,000.

“The main objective of this grant is to create a business environment that promotes retail, services and tourism for the downtown area,” Pierce said. “It will also address structural improvements to downtown and provide funding for business energy efficiency projects.”

Gering business owner Dennis Wiedeman spoke in favor of the application.

“Crossing 10th Street is sometimes like trying to cross the Interstate,” he said. “I’m impressed with the idea of going to three lanes of traffic. They did it in Scottsbluff and it really slows down the traffic. We need to do that to make downtown Gering a better place to work.”
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