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Up to $72,000 in neighborhood grant money available
Using money from the city's Neighborhood Matching Grant project, the Tiffany Park neighborhood over the past few years has turned an empty intersection into a small urban park.
In the Sunset neighborhood, matching grant funds were used to build a community garden, one of two that in season routinely help supply the food bank with fresh vegetables.
And in the Maplewood area, a grant was used to turn what the Neighborhood Program coordinator Norma McQuiller said was once an "ugly spot" into a park of their own.
"The neighborhood grants program affords them the opportunity to implement programs they want to see in their neighborhood," McQuiller said.
This year, the City of Renton has up to $72,000 available in matching grants for neighborhood projects around the city; all residents have to do is come up with the idea and match the funding in "sweat equity" or work to complete the project.
Projects suitable for the grants are any costing more than $1,000 and are designed to promote networking among residents, communication between the city government and citizens and to enhance one of the city's many neighborhoods with something it may be lacking, be it a simple welcome sign or a tile mosaic at a park, or even something larger, like the $23,000 landscaping and irrigation project along Northeast Third Street that planted trees to protect the view corridor.
"Eventually, when you drive up Northeast Third, you won't see all the rooftoops of that neighborhood," McQuiller said.
But not all of the projects have to be used for beautification. Two neighborhoods received grants for emergency kiosks in their neighborhood, including one that was used for communications when the January 2012 ice storm knocked out power to several neighborhoods.
"They range from all different categories," McQuiller said of the projects. "They are judged on the meat of their program."
The Neighborhood Program began as a pilot program in 1997 and was made official late in 2000. It was designed to help bridge a disconnect between the city government and the citizens of Renton.
Earlier this year, the program hosted its annual neighbor-to-neighbor forum, drawing more than 50 residents to the Renton Senior Activity Center on a Saturday morning.
This year's grant application period is open through March 8 and is designed for projects costing more than $1,000. For smaller projects, micro-grants are available.
When the program began, projects were capped at $5,000, but McQuiller said as neighborhoods became "more innovative" in what they hoped to accomplish, the limit was removed.
"There's really no ceiling amount," she said, but said grants are only available to groups representing one of the city's 72 defined neighborhoods.
The projects are reviewed by a team of city staff and employees, including McQuiller, and will be evaluated on a large list of criteria that includes a well-defined scope and goal, a timeline, identified leaders that have made a commitment, creativity, a public benefit and the involvement of the community, among other things.
Neighborhoods are requited to "match" the funding provided by the city, mostly in volunteer labor or local professionals living in the neighborhood willing to devote their time and skills to a project.
"These neighborhoods, there is so much talent in these neighborhoods," McQuiller said.
The deadline for filing an application is March 8. For more information, visit http://rentonwa.gov/living/default.aspx?id=2234.