Grant deadline approaches to expand Birthplace of Country Music Museum
BRISTOL, Va. - The deadline to qualify for $600,000 in state grant money is fast approaching for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. The non-profit needs the money to expand in downtown. News 5's Kristi O'Connor found out how moving forward with the expansion now lies in the City of Bristol, Virginia's hands. Nearly $2 million dollars in grant money from the Department of Virginia Housing and Community Development is up for grabs this year for industrial revitalization. "For projects that take a deteriorated building that is a bit of blight in the community to renovate that with a clear end use," Director of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum Jessica Turner said. Turner thinks they have the perfect fit to receive $600,000 of that grant money. It is the final funding they need to get started on a $4 million renovation of the 17,000 square foot building that sits between the museum and the Bristol Hotel. The non-profit already owns the building. They plan to use the extra room to offer meeting space to organizations and agencies, more classroom space for educational programs, archival space and more recording studios. To qualify for the grant, BCM needs the city to apply for them. However, the timeline got tighter when council did not agree to last week. That means council would have to pass the resolution at next Tuesday's meeting, the night before the application is due. Mayor Bill Hartley says the concern is not on finances because there is no financial obligation from the city. BCM already has the required $600,000 match.
Hartley says because the city would be the grant applicant, they are making sure the city would not be held liable. For example, if the building were ever to be sold, a clause requires the city to pay the money back to the state. "To try to keep an organization from taking state funds for renovating and turning it around and selling it for a profit," Hartley explained. Hartley, who is very familiar with grant writing as its his full-time job, says this grant application is not anything out of the ordinary. He says he does not see it as being anything but beneficial to BCM and Bristol. "One, it meets all the criteria very well. I think it would be a very competitive application," Hartley said. However, whether or not the application is submitted lies on council's decision next week. Turner says if they do not get to apply for the grant, the project will be delayed until they find another way to come up with the final $600,000. "In this grant cycle, these funds are going to go somewhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia and we would really like to see that come here to our community," Turner said. In other BCM news, Bristol, Tenn. City Manager Bill Sorah says this is the final year of the five-year agreement the city has with BCM, in which is pays $100,000 annually to BCM operations.