By Matt Harrelson
ROCKINGHAM — Mayor Steve Morris said Tuesday that the city has submitted a grant request to the Richmond Community Foundation for $281,331 — the exact amount still needed to cover the cost of a downtown project that will raze the Steele building and see the construction of a new restaurant.
Morris made the comment during the monthly meeting of the Rockingham Downtown Corporation while discussing the city’s 10-year commitment to focus on downtown development, tourism and recreation opportunities. In February, the city awarded a $756,331 contract to Carpenter Construction Company, of Oakboro. To date, the city has committed only $475,000 to the project, all of which has come through a Cole Foundation grant.
The project will raze the existing building on East Washington Street, situated across from Discovery Place KIDS, and replace it with a multipurpose building, one part restaurant and one part lunchroom for kids visiting the museum. Morris said earlier this month after a public City Council meeting that he hoped the full funding package would be in place by the city’s April 8 public meeting.
The Richmond Community Foundation is a partner with Foundations For The Carolinas. Brian Collier, senior vice president for Community Programs and Civic Leadership with Foundation For The Carolinas, said Tuesday the request had been put in but not yet been made public.
“The process is the board meets, makes a decision and letters are sent out,” said Collier. “It takes about a month for everyone to get letters and agree to the terms between the foundation and the city.”
Morris indicated the city made the request approximately two weeks ago.
“When someone requests a grant, we’re asking someone to make certain promises and make sure they understand what we’re asking for,” said Collier. “That’s where they’re at right now.”
Foundations For The Carolinas has been a large proponent for projects in Richmond County as the organization oversees the Cole Foundation, Foundation for Richmond County and Richmond Community Foundation.
“We’re very supportive of the city of Rockingham over the years,” said Collier. “We want to make sure Rockingham and Richmond County are places to visit.”
Meanwhile, demolition is expected to begin this week. Workers have erected fences around the Steele building. Attempts to reach Carpenter Construction for a project timeline were unsuccessful.