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Rooftop project gets EDA help
Bethem project receives $10,000 grant


Date published: 8/14/2012

BY BILL FREEHLING

Downtown Fredericksburg's first rooftop bar got a $10,000 boost Monday morning.

Fredericksburg's Economic Development Authority awarded Blake and Aby Bethem a $10,000 grant for the rooftop bar at their Vivify Burger Lounge at 314 William St.

The Bethems have started interior demolition and hope to begin construction soon. They plan to open in early January. Earlier this year the Bethems got a $10,000 grant from the EDA for facade work on the building.

The Bethems were one of the few grant recipients at Monday's meeting. The EDA received about $85,000 worth of applications but approved just $12,500. Smaller grants went to the Leadership Fredericksburg program, the downtown Trees of Hope event and the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center for a fall exhibit.

Separately, the EDA approved a $4,000 request from the city's economic development department for cash prizes at this year's Winter Wonderland contest, which involves riddles placed in holiday-adorned downtown windows to bring in shoppers. Next year the prizes could include gift cards to downtown businesses. Details of the gift-card program are being worked out.

The EDA has started scrutinizing grant applications more closely in the wake of a significant hit to its annual revenues brought on by the University of Mary Washington Foundation's decision to refinance its Eagle Village bonds into a fixed-rate package. The previous, variable-rate bonds were issued through the EDA, which got $121,626 this past fiscal year from the UMW Foundation for being the issuer. That was more than a third of the EDA's annual revenue.

In other business Monday, the EDA:

Discussed changing the city's tourism zone incentive program and reducing BPOL taxes for smaller businesses. Proposed changes call for city staff to be able to approve more incentive applications without going to Fredericksburg City Council, and for the entire city to be included in the tourism zone. The matter is expected to come before City Council this fall.

Got an update on efforts to get the city into the state's Main Street program. A board has been formed for the local group, which is calling itself Real Fredericksburg. Some discussion was held at the meeting about changing the name, which is intended to evoke the central business district's authenticity. The Main Street program would probably receive much of its funding at first from City Council and the EDA, which represent the entire city, so some suggested making the name more inclusive. Board members plan to apply early next year to be accepted into the statewide initiative to boost downtowns.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com