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Secretary Holt and Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Staff Tour Easton Revitalization Projects

During National Community Development Week, Secretary Kenneth C. Holt and staff from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) visited the historic town of Easton in Talbot County. Led by Mayor Bob Willey and other town officials, Secretary Holt toured projects funded by state revitalization dollars, as well as the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which is administered by the department.

 The first stop on the tour was the Port Street neighborhood. Here, two homes built in the 1860s are being renovated into four affordable apartments for moderate-income renters. The renovations retain the historical character of the building while modernizing the inside of the homes. Original features, such as exposed brick, have been retained. More than $350,000 was awarded through DHCD’s Neighborhood Conservation Initiative for acquisition and renovation of these homes.  Across the street, state Strategic Demolition Funds supported the removal of several blighted buildings. The cleared space will be redeveloped by the Talbot Housing Commission with brand-new Net Zero homes for sale at affordable prices. Further up the street, Habitat for Humanity Choptank has been renovating additional homes with help from CDBG funds. Funding from the department’s Community Legacy Program was also used to complete a network of sidewalks in the neighborhood.

Next, the group visited “The Hill” community of Easton, the first free African-American community in the United States, featuring homes dating to the late 1860s through the 1880s. DHCD awarded Community Legacy, Strategic Demolition Funds and CDBG funding for the renovation of historic homes that will be sold to low and moderate income families. The first of six historical homes have begun renovations, and some of the subcontractors on the project are direct descendants of Frederick Douglass. The historic Buffalo Soldier House, which was built by a Civil War veteran in 1879 and later occupied by a soldier from one of the first peacetime all-black regiments in the U.S. Army, will also be restored with DHCD funding as part of this project.

The secretary then had the opportunity to visit the headquarters of Channel Marker, a psychiatric rehabilitation program that provides services  to adults in Talbot, Caroline and Dorchester County. Thanks to $350,000 in CDBG funding, the program was able to expand, moving from an inadequate 5,500 square foot facility into a nearly 19,000 square foot building with common areas for clients to mingle, a gym, a larger kitchen and additional office space.

The tour ended at a former laundry building that is now home to the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and several other nonprofits and businesses. Funding from Community Legacy and the Neighborhood BusinessWorks small-business lending program helped finance the renovation of the building, keeping many historic features such as bubble glass windows and exposed brick while still receiving LEED certification for its modern environmental and energy conservation features.

“The money is being put to good use, it really is,” said Mayor Willey. “We’re not used to this type of response from state government.”

“We are excited in Easton about the activity we have going on,” Town Manager Don Richardson added. “We thank [DHCD] for all the effort [they] bring to the table.”

To see more photos from the tour, visit http://bit.ly/EastonTour2018.