4 Types of Project Planning Grants and
How to Obtain a Planning Grant Investment in Virginia

Graphic to show the blog title '4 Types of Project Planning Grants: How to Obtain a Planning Grant Investment in Virginia' and also 4 different icons showing the steps for applying for a grant.

on 21 April 2020
  • project planning
  • grants
  • obtain investment

A neighborhood revitalization doesn’t just happen overnight. There are multiple steps included in the process before the work in the neighborhood can even begin. One of those definitive steps is obtaining funding for the project.

Don’t worry, no one will have to set up a lemonade stand to raise funds in order to start! The CDBG Program in Virginia was created in order to aid in the process of identifying community development needs. These needs do not just come from a planner’s evaluation though, the community is also involved to obtain citizen input. There are grants available in Virginia for these types of projects that are provided through Virginia’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program.

So how exactly is a grant obtained for a neighborhood revitalization project? There is an application of course! If there is a non-entitlement locality (those not receiving a direct HUD allocation) interested in obtaining Planning Grant assistance, that locality will have to complete an application through the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Centralized Application and Management System (CAMS). After the application is submitted, the DHCD will review it and provide a written response to the locality explaining the activities which must be completed within 8 weeks of the response.

Looking to start an application for your next project?
You can register for an account on the DHCD CAMS website at https://dmz1.dhcd.virginia.gov/camsportal/Login.aspx.

There is also a video to assist with the registration process if additional help is needed!

Virginia DHCD CAMS Registration Video Tutorial


Overall, there are 6 categories of planning grants, and they are broken down into two groups:, Pre-Project Planning Grants and Project Planning Grants. The two categories included in Pre-Project Planning Grants are Community Organizing Planning Grants and Community Needs Assessment/Economic Assessment Planning Grants. Those two categories will not be discussed in this blog, but if you are interested in learning more about those two categories, the Virginia DHCD website provides a Planning Grant Fact Sheet to explain them in more detail.


The categories this blog focuses on are the 4 types included in the Project Planning Grants group. Those include:

  • Neighborhood Revitalization/Comprehensive Community Development Planning Grants
  • Business District Revitalization Project Planning Grants
  • Telecommunications Planning Grants
  • Regional Project Planning Grants

The following are particular activities for eligible project planning grants:

  • Gauge stakeholder interest and assist in the promotion of awareness of potential CDBG eligible activities
  • Creation of a amanagement team that includes potential beneficiaries
  • Community Assessments, need analyses, and need prioritization
  • Activation and organization of target area residents and stakeholders
  • Surveys of residents, users, customers, and potential beneficiaries
  • Obtaining easements and user agreements
  • Identify and procure professional assistance as necessary
  • Development of cost estimates and Preliminary Engineering Reports (PERs)
  • Completion of feasibility or market studies

DIFFERENT TYPES OF GRANTS

Project Planning Grants

These grants are available in preparation for a future Community Improvement Grant application and include assistance with needs analysis and prioritization, preliminary design, and strategy development activities. This type of grant can be up to $30,000 or $40,000 with up to $50,000 available for regional prohects.

Do you think that your project is innovative, challenging, or costly and could use more grant money than the limit provides? Good news! The DHCD can award additional funds in addition to the $30,000 (or $40,000) limit for projects that may prove to be more challenging, costly, or particularly innovative.

Neighborhood Revitalization and Comprehensive Community Development Grants

If you are looking to rehabilitate homes for low- to moderate-income households, this type of grant is crucial to surveying households and doing walk-throughs and preliminary cost estimates for the homes to be rehabilitated. If the neighborhood also needs infrastructure improvements to serve the residents, these can be a part of the planning and the project shifts to being a Comprehensive Community Development project eligible for additional implementation funds if the Community Improvement Grant is successful.


Business District Revitalization Project Planning Grants

If you are looking to improve the economic and physical conditions within a downtown, this type of planning grant may be for you. The intent of this type of grant is to assist appropriate localities engaging in activities that are specifically designed to improve the physical appearance of their downtowns and revitalize their downtown economy. For the localities applying for this type of grant, a key outcome will be the development of an Economic Restructuring Plan. An Economic Restructuring Plan helps the locality ensure long-term sustainability in the community by figuring out what may be necessary for the locality to implement economic improvement strategies.


Telecommunications Planning Grants

This type of grant is available for both implementation efforts or for future system development and support. Prior to accessing CDBG funds for this type of grant project, the locality must have already completed a community-based telecommunications plan.


Regional Project Planning Grants

Regional Project Planning Grants are available for regional efforts that include more than one locality for needs analysis and strategy development. There are funds up to $50,000 available for these efforts.


After choosing which grant works best for my project, what happens next?

Once the decision has been made on what type of grant is needed, an application will need to be submitted. After those two steps have been completed, there will be an evaluation of the proposal.

There are 5 questions that Planning Grant investment decisions will be based on:

  1. Is there a clear indication of community development needs?
  2. Are there potential benefits?
  3. Is there adequate local capacity?
  4. Is there a need for Planning Grant funding?

If an applicant is unsure of what a particular question may be referring to for evaluation, they can check out the Planning Grant Fact Sheet where each evaluation question is explained in detail.


Receiving grant funding to prepare for the start of a neighborhood revitalization project may seem like a lot of work, but there are plenty of resources to help throughout the process and the outcomes are definitely worth it.

For more information regarding the Planning Grant Program in Virginia, or for questions, please visit the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development website. There you will find contact information, the fact sheet containing more detailed information regarding this blog and links to resources.

Check out some of the revitalization projects our
Planning Department has completed!



Image of one of the houses included in the Lower Roxbury Revitalization project in the Town of Clifton Forge, Va.
Image of one of the houses included in the Lower Roxbury Revitalization project in the Town of Clifton Forge, Va.

Lower Roxbury Neighborhood Revitalization
A neighborhood study, funded with a 2013 CDBG Planning Grant, assisted the Town in identifying specific community development and housing needs in the neighborhood. The proposed improvement plan focused on the rehabilitation of houses in conjunction with water, sewer, and street improvements. Abandoned properties were targeted for acquisition and demolition for the construction of a wider intersection to accommodate safety vehicles and a neighborhood park in order to help preserve the neighborhood.


Image of a neighborhood status map for the Pinewoood Heights Revitalization project in the Town of Smithfield, Va.
Image of one of the houses included in the Pinewoood Heights Revitalization project in the Town of Smithfield, Va.

Pinewood Heights Neighborhood Revitalization
We provided the Town with turn-key funding application support, Acquisition and Relocation assistance by following federal Uniform Relocation Act (URA) procedures in providing all proper acquisition and relocation notices, assisting residents with identifying relocation options, calculating benefits, completing all state and federal relocation forms, and ensuring the demolition of the vacant homes. Relocation activities were executed in order to provide decent, safe, and affordable housing in a suitable living environment for the residents of the neighborhood.


Image of the revitalized box office in downtown Starburg, Va that was part of the downtown revitalization project.
Image of revitalized pavillion that was part of the downtown revitalization project in Strasburg, Va.

Strasburg Downtown Revitalization
We were contracted to research and compile an Economic Restructuring Plan and to compile and submit an application for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for downtown revitalization. With the improvements, Strasburg’s downtown began to thrive. Utilizing both Town and CDBG funds, two buildings were removed to make room for the construction of a year-round market pavilion, a town green, a performance pavilion, and a creek-side trail connecting the public space to nearby parking.


Image of a business included in the Galax-Bottom-East View Neighborhood Revitalization project in the Town of Galax, Va.
Image of a house included in the Galax-Bottom-East View Neighborhood Revitalization project in the Town of Galax, Va.

Galax-Bottom-East View Neighborhood Revitalization
Following a 2012 neighborhood study the City identified specific community development and housing needs in the Bottom neighborhood which were then separated into multiple implementation phases. Summit developed a successful funding proposal for the first phase in 2012 which was funded for $2.6 million in CDBG and matching funds. Phases I/II improved the living conditions of twenty-six (26) households with housing rehabilitation and significant expansion of the area’s stormwater management system.




MEET THE AUTHOR

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Ciara Fischer
Ciara Fischer is our Graphic/Web Designer and she handles our client facing marketing materials and our website. Ciara hasn’t always been a North Carolina native, but she planted roots here in 2015 after traveling over 8 hours from Pennsylvania with her husband, dog and cat. Other than creating visual content for Summit’s clients and communities, Ciara enjoys reading (mostly mystery/crime novels), hiking with her dog and husband, traveling and crafting.

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