Oxford Borough secures first grant for proposed parking garage
● By Steven Hoffman
Oxford Borough's efforts to construct a parking garage near the business district took a major step forward when the borough recently received approximately $578,000 in funding for the project through Chester County's Community Revitalization Program. This is the first significant funding that the borough has received since a parking garage study was completed in 2015. In order for Oxford Borough officials to support moving forward with the project, which has an estimated price tag of $5.75 million, the borough will need to piece together funding from a variety of federal, state, and county sources.
Steve Krug and Pauline Garcia-Allen, two consultants for the borough's parking garage project, delivered the good news about the first grant at a public meeting on Nov. 21. Krug, the principal of Krug Architects, completed a comprehensive parking study in 2015, and he and Garcia-Allen have been facilitating the borough's attempts to secure federal, state, and county funding throughout this year.
Garcia-Allen explained that the borough initially applied for approximately $1 million in funding through the county grant program in April, one of numerous grant applications that the borough has submitted so far. Chester County officials awarded a total of about $2.3 million in funding for economic development projects throughout the county with this round of grants, she said.
“This is the highest award that they gave this year,” Garcia-Allen said. “It's an indication that this is a strong project.”
The parking garage study recommended a 300-space parking garage that would be constructed on a parking lot near the center of the business district. Business leaders in Oxford have championed the parking garage as an economic driver that would boost economic development in town. A parking garage would offer a long-term solution to the parking issues that have hindered Oxford's efforts at attracting new businesses, especially a larger one that would serve as an anchor to the rest of the business district.
During the past 12 months, the scope of the parking garage project has evolved. The structure is now proposed to function as a transit center that could potentially link Oxford to some other form of public transportation in the region. This could make the project eligible for additional funding from federal, state, and county sources.
Oxford officials have been working with Krug and Garcia-Allen on the parking garage project in a variety of ways throughout the year. They negotiated an agreement with National Penn Bank (which is now BB & T Bank) to purchase the two parcels that comprise the parking lot if plans to build the parking garage on the site come to fruition. Oxford Borough officials are having ongoing negotiations with Verizon to discuss the small piece of the property that the company owns on the parking lot where the parking garage is expected to be built.
Garcia-Allen said that State Rep. John Lawrence has helped with facilitating the discussions between Oxford Borough and Verizon. Lawrence has also assisted borough officials as they seek funding for the parking garage at the state level. Borough manager Brian Hoover, borough council president Ron Hershey, and Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. executive director Donna Hosler led a contingent that traveled to Harrisburg on Nov. 21 to meet with officials at the state level to discuss Oxford's application for funding at the state level. There were three meetings that took place throughout the day, and Oxford officials were very optimistic.
Garcia-Allen noted that, with the state budget delay in 2015, funding for many economic development projects throughout Pennsylvania were delayed, and the backlog of those projects is only now starting to be cleared.
According to Garcia-Allen, now that Oxford has one grant in hand from Chester County, that funding can be utilized as a match for grants from the state and federal level. Securing a revitalization grant from the county is a very good start to a process that will continue well into 2017.