Washington officials and TREK Development Group are working together to try to obtain a $1 million state grant to begin renovations on the historic Washington Trust Building.
City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to join a cooperative agreement with TREK in the application process to boost its chances for a state Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program grant.
The application must be submitted by Monday and will not cost they city anything. The city successfully worked with other organizations and companies, including TRIPIL and Washington & Jefferson College, to secure similar RCAP grant funding for various projects.
TREK President William Gatti said the application is to improve and expand parking near the 84,000-square-foot building to double the amount of available spaces. He said the parking and infrastructure improvements would make the building more attractive to prospective businesses and renters.
“I’m very pleased that the city is supporting us and agreed to file this joint application for the RCAP funding,” Gatti said. “It’s going to be such a big impact on downtown Washington that I think we have a good shot.”
TREK purchased the 114-year-old building Nov. 15 for $739,844, according to county property records, and is preparing to turn the towering structure in Washington’s main business district into a mix of commercial units and residential apartments by January 2016. The biggest hurdle for the Pittsburgh developer is to secure funding for the $19 million project. It hopes to begin construction next January.
Washington Mayor Brenda Davis said the application partnership with TREK was an easy decision because of the potential redevelopment of the old building.
“The sooner they get their funding, the sooner they can begin construction,” Davis said. “If the city of Washington can work any way with them to secure funding, it just means the residents who are here will have safe and affordable housing sooner rather than later.”
Apartment rents would average about $750 a month for a one-bedroom unit, TREK officials previously said, but some units would be priced at $650 a month for people earning $30,000 a year or less. Rent for a two-bedroom unit would be about $950.
Davis pointed to similar successful RCAP grant applications in recent years as a reason to help with the project. Davis also hopes it brings new residents into the city to stimulate the business district.
“If you look back through the years of planning, revitalization and market studies, all of them revert back to bringing housing back to the downtown area,” Davis said. “It’s great that the Trust Building has brought a new developer into the city.”
Finding funding for the downtown project has been slow, and the developer already pushed back construction by a year.
The developer requested $750,000 in Local Share Account money from Washington County in 2013, but was denied. Gatti said regardless of what happens with the RCAP grant, the developer will now work to garner tax credits for the project in March, although they won’t know if they’re successful with the bid until the summer.
“It’s always hard to predict, but I think we’ll put forward a competitive (RCAP) application and make the best argument we can,” Gatti said. “But I feel good about it.”