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LaGrange awarded $2M CBDG grant

LaGrange has been named the recipient of a $2 million grant aimed to improve the Whitesville Road corridor.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs announced Monday that LaGrange is the first city awarded funds from the Community Development Block Grant Innovative Grant Program. The program is federally funded and focuses on benefitting low- to moderate-income people by providing resources for livable neighborhoods, economic empowerment and decent housing.

The city applied for the grant in February. At the time, Alton West, LaGrange community development director, said the grant would be used to acquire property on Whitesville Road and Butler Street as the beginning of a redevelopment project. 

According to a news release from the state, the $2 million grant will be used to transform an area in the Whitesville Road corridor by acquiring and reconstructing seven dilapidated homes as rental units. 

The funds from the grant would purchase the Shannon Auto Dealership on Whitesville Road and transform it into a workforce development training center to teach local students trade skills. The news release from the state said the project would help about 131 people. 

In February, West said the idea is also to relocate those living in homes on Butler with the grant funds and redevelop the current homes from the ground up. 

“We feel like is going to be a game-changer for this community and could possibly be looked at as a best practice for other communities,” West said.

He said the long-term vision for the project and the implementation of the training facility is to allow young people to get hands-on experience and then give them a place to stay within the community.

“I don’t want that talent to leave our community,” West said. 

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said several local businesses and community partners connected and developed this approach.

“I appreciate DCA offering this opportunity for communities to think creatively and to propose innovative solutions to recurring issues,” he said in a news release. “DCA’s grant will allow us to improve substandard housing, provide job training, and enhance one of our major gateways.”

The grant program focuses on projects that will result in transformational changes — individual or a series of activities that will support long-term, systemic, and sustainable change.

This grant is only eligible for non-entitlement communities (cities with populations of less than 50,000 and counties with less than 200,000).  

“This grant provides an opportunity for communities to demonstrate and develop forward-thinking, solution-driven initiatives that will enhance the quality of life for residents for generations to come,” said Kimberly Carter, DCA’s Office of Community Development director.

According to the news release, after a review of pre-applications, five communities were invited to submit a final application, and three were provided. The news release said LaGrange had the highest-scoring application.

“The city’s comprehensive plan identified a lack of jobs and poverty as weaknesses in the community, so this project provides a much-needed remedy,” Carter said. “The partnership-based focus also reflects the importance of collaboration for community improvement.”

Christopher Nunn, DCA commissioner, said LaGrange developed a remarkable community revitalization strategy, which will result in housing solutions and workforce training.

“It is this type of ingenious thinking that will continue to move communities forward,” he said.

The LaGrange Housing Authority, Callaway Foundation, DASH Neighborhood Revitalization, Circles of Troup County, Ark Refuge Ministries, Fellowship Deliverance Ministries, Troup County School System, West Georgia Technical College, and a host of private construction companies provided letters of support for the application as did the residents who are to be assisted by the project.