Community Development Network tours downtown Cambridge

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Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper
The tour visits the construction site of Doug Kyle, who is renovating 400 Race Street to become a restaurant/bar, with apartments on the second floor.

Cambridge — Maryland Community Development Week made a stop in Cambridge on Oct. 23, to highlight the success Community Development Network aid has had in strengthening small businesses in Cambridge’s downtown.

Cambridge to date has leveraged $3.3 million in public and private investments using the Neighborhood BusinessWorks funds on 12 projects that strengthened the city’s “Main Street” area economically and supported more than 100 jobs, according to CDN.

The Neighborhood BusinessWorks loan program provides flexible gap financing to new or expanding small businesses and non-profit organizations in Sustainable Communities across Maryland. These businesses and organizations whose activities contribute to broad community revitalization efforts can receive financing ranging from $25,000 to $500,000 for up to 50 percent of a project’s total cost.

“Public-private partnerships are key to strengthening our communities,” said Odette Ramos, executive director of the Community Development Network of Maryland. “The success of the Neighborhood BusinessWorks program to revitalize Cambridge’s ‘Main Street’ area shows that state investments in community projects can be effective and really make a difference.”

Following the press conference, there was a tour of the Neighborhood BusinessWorks projects in Cambridge, including Jimmie & Sooks, Calista Boutique, the Wine Bar and more locations on Race and Poplar streets. Sen. Addie Eckardt, Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes, and other leaders from government, nonprofits and the private sector also took part in the event.

“Main Street districts are complicated things, because the size of the problem is oftentimes larger than any one person’s ability to fix it,” said Brandon Hesson, executive director of Cambridge Main Street, who led the tour. “In our case, we had these large, empty department stores that no small business owner could ever responsibly take over. Neighborhood BusinessWorks brought the finish line a lot closer to the handful of individuals in our community who were willing to run the race.”

“The Neighborhood BusinessWorks program gave me the ability to start my business in 2002. It started out as A Few of My Favorite Things, which sold gifts and wine and cheese, but after the economic downturn, we were at risk of closing,” said Carol Levy, owner of The Wine Bar in Cambridge. “The state Department of Housing and Community Development worked with me and adjusted my loan so that I could still afford to make payments and keep my business afloat. Now, we’ve transformed into the Wine Bar. We still sell bottles of wine and we serve wine and small plates as well. State investments in our area are a good shot in the arm.”

Doug Kyle, who is working on renovating 400 Race St., to contain a small restaurant, bar, and upstairs apartments, was excited about the tour, as well as the available CDN programs. “Cambridge has two of my favorite things — old houses and water,” Doug told us. We asked if he was excited about his new venture.
“I’m more excited than I should be. I’m ahead of myself. I still don’t have all the funding together, but I told the bank, ‘I’ll do it all myself and it will take me 10 years, but with your help I could get it done a lot quicker.’” Work on Mr. Kyle’s project — that he still has no name for — is going on now and he hopes to have his new place open in May of 2016.

“The Hogan administration is proud to join our partners across the state in recognition of Community Development Week, “ said Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth C. Holt. “Our investment in community development stimulates Maryland’s economy, revitalizes neighborhoods and creates jobs.”

Paul Clipper is the editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at pclipper@newszap.com.

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