Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg Council funds business grant program, approves development projects

Harrisburg City Council met in a virtual legislative session on Tuesday.

A new grant program designed to sustain city businesses got its final approval on Tuesday night, as Harrisburg agreed to kick in half the money for the fund.

City Council unanimously agreed to allocate $500,000 for the new Neighborhood Business Stabilization Program, a $1 million fund that is offering up to $10,000 for city-licensed businesses, including nonprofits, to try to offset some of the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am certainly in support of it,” said council President Wanda Williams. “These small businesses that were hit hard by this COVID-19 will be able to function again and pay their employees.”

The money is coming from the city’s revolving loan fund, a dormant program that once provided loans to assist city-based businesses. Williams emphasized that measures will be taken to ensure that recipients properly use the funds as indicated in their applications.

Impact Harrisburg, a nonprofit formed as part of the city’s 2013 financial recovery plan, is providing the fund’s other $500,000 and is administering the program.

Impact Harrisburg has already begun accepting applications for the grants. It expects to begin making funding decisions around May 7.

City Solicitor Neil Grover, who is also the chairman of the Impact Harrisburg board, told council members that the program, which just opened last week, already has received more than 300 applications totaling about $2 million in eligible funding requests, about twice the amount allocated for the program.

Because of the overwhelming demand, Grover said that the city and Impact Harrisburg would like to identify additional funding for the program.

“The subscription numbers already exceed the combined monies,” he said. “The board is going into discussions about whether we can locate other sources of money as we start to be able to measure the need locally.”

On Tuesday, City Council also approved two pending development projects.

It unanimously approved a land development plan by the Hudson Companies to build a 130,000-square-foot office building on the 2500-block of N. 7th Street, the site of the former headquarters of D&H Distributing.

The Hermitage, Pa.-based company plans to demolish D&H’s low-slung building and construct a new, three-story, brick-and-glass building on the site. Hudson then will enter into a long-term lease with the commonwealth, which plans to locate about 850 Department of Human Services and Office of Administration workers there. Most will move from the former Harrisburg State Hospital grounds, which the state is trying to sell.

Hudson hopes to break ground on the project in several months, with completion in late 2021.

City Council also approved a land development plan for the construction of four new townhouses on the 600-block of Woodbine Street. The nearby Camp Curtin YMCA plans to undertake the $1 million affordable housing project on vacant land currently owned by the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority.

At last week’s council work session, Jamien Harvey, the Camp Curtin YMCA executive director, said he hoped that this project would just be the first phase of building more affordable housing in the area.

Harvey said that the houses, which will cost about $175,000 apiece to build, will sell for $70,000 to $80,000.

“We are looking to change the look of our neighborhood,” he said. “We’re looking to eliminate blight. We’re looking to cut down on the drugs and the violence in our neighborhood, and we’re looking to building a community with pride. This is one of many projects to come.”

Council also heard a financial update from city Budget and Finance Director Bruce Weber, who largely reiterated a presentation he provided last week to the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. In both presentations, Weber said that, despite the general economic collapse, the city’s finances remain fairly stable, though subsequent months will offer clearer insight into how much revenue the city will lose because of higher unemployment and the loss of parking revenue.

Lastly, council unanimously passed a resolution allowing Harrisburg to enter into an intergovernmental cooperation agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to receive as much as $540,250 to fund lead hazard control activities in the city. This will enable the city to continue its existing lead abatement program over several more years.

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