Unity Hall in Fort Plain on the precipice of lost funding; Must raise $ 250,000 by Friday
FORT PLAIN – Mohawk Valley Collective, Inc. must raise $ 250,000 by Friday afternoon to retain grant funding to restore historic Unity Hall or risk losing a matching grant awarded before the pandemic. The state, which announced in late 2019 that MVC would receive a $ 500,000 grant, recently gave the nonprofit until Friday to get half that figure or risk losing the repayable grant altogether.
The Unity Hall project in December 2019 received the matching grant and had to raise the $ 250,000 by May 2020. When the covid arrived, the date was put on hold and then recently reimposed with the new deadline.
The Collective took possession of the old Universalist Church – the tallest and most important building in the village – at the end of August 2011, and began renovations of the facility almost immediately.
The group renamed the massive, historic structure Unity Hall – a forward-thinking title signifying the building’s potential future as a welcoming, expansive and active community space.
In December 2019, the Collective learned that it had received a grant of $ 500,000 for future work at Unity Hall. The Main Street Downtown Anchor Grant, issued by NYS Homes and Community Renewal (UNHCR), was intended to fund several restoration projects, including asbestos reduction and the installation of bathrooms, heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electricity.
“This is by far the biggest grant we have ever received,” said Tanya Towne, Treasurer of the Collective.
Grant funding, combined with additional grants and donations accumulated by the Collective, would cover $ 1.25 million of the $ 1.5 million price tag for the Full Revitalization Project.
The money for home and community renewal would also be matched with a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, which would provide 50% funding for essential disability accessibility upgrades at Unity Hall, including the installation of an elevator and ramps throughout the property.
Despite the promising 2019 announcement that the Collective would receive the $ 500,000, completing the work was a tall order for the small nonprofit.
“First we have to find the money, do the work, then the state pays back the project,” said Tolga Morawski, founder and member of the collective board.
Towne pointed out that “a lot of people didn’t realize we had to do this first. And raising $ 500,000 isn’t easy. “
With COVID-19 essentially shutting down the state last March, the Collective’s already difficult situation was further complicated, with lenders focusing on issuing PPP loans and mortgages.
The Collective’s loan request has so far been rejected by 13 banks, and the Collective is awaiting news from one final bank, Key Bank, where a loan request was filed on March 4, 2020.
“Unfortunately, when you’re a small nonprofit in Fort Plain,” Morawski said, the banks are generally unwilling to provide that much funding.
The state’s announcement Friday of its intention to cancel the grant creates a major hurdle for the plans.
Once they received notification of the state’s home and community renewal program, Morawski filed an appeal, with the grant issuer agreeing that if MVC could find $ 250,000 in a week – by then Friday afternoon – the nonprofit would keep the grant.
Morawski went to work on Friday to try to secure donations and loans, with around $ 30,000 pledged Monday night. Combining this financing with several lines of credit available to Collective, Morawski said, “We have to tinker with all of this to the point where we get to $ 250,000.”
Including the money available, “ideally we need to reach $ 200,000” in grants and loans by Friday to keep the state grant, he said.
Towne explained to those considering funding the Mohawk Valley Collective, “It doesn’t have to be a donation. It can be a loan. Once we are refunded, we can return it. It’s just that we can’t move forward until we have the supports.
If, by Friday, the $ 250,000 has not been raised, the Collective may file an appeal for an extension of the grant, although Towne pointed out that, most likely, “if we don’t miraculously find the funding. in another way, they’re going to take away the grant.
The organization can reapply for the grant if it is canceled, although Morawski said that after being repeatedly refused before receiving it, “I don’t live in a dream land.”
Morawski has approached several elected officials about the situation and noted that he will work tirelessly until the necessary funding is secured. “I will not accept defeat,” he said. “Fort Plain is a troubled region. Montgomery County has the highest poverty levels in upstate New York. We have limited facilities, limited programs, and limited resources for the people who need them most. I see this as something that we really need to make a reality for our community. “
Unity Hall has hosted several concerts, film screenings, art exhibitions and community events since the Collective became owner.
The loss of the grant would be significant, Morawski said. “We’re just now getting to the point where you can see the big picture,” he said, including the near completion of Unity Hall’s adjacent public space, Unity Park.
For the work at Unity Hall to stop on its momentum after gaining so much momentum, Morawski said, would be potentially devastating.
If the money is guaranteed by Friday, ongoing improvements under the Home and Community Renewal Grant will begin following the conclusion of an ongoing, near-completed FEMA flood repair project. , $ 400,000 which picked up at Unity Hall on Monday and includes continued foundation repointing, the first step. installation and drainage works.
To make a donation or loan or for questions, contact the Mohawk Valley Collective at (518) 993-5506, or by email: [email protected] The Collective can also be reached via Facebook Messenger, or by visiting: mohawkvalleycollective.com.
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