Williamburg’s City Council considered a $1.3 million grant proposal from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation during its recent work session.
The grant would help the foundation cover funding for popular events as well as update infrastructure for certain aspects of the area. The new request differs from previous grant proposals from the foundation which tended to focus on funding for marketing, said Vice Mayor Doug Pons.
“I think in the past when it was marketing [requests], it was hard for a lot of people to wrap their hands around the need of supporting the foundation’s marketing,” Pons said. “What you’ve done here is provided, I think, a good argument to how these funds would be spent.”
A presentation from Jeffery Duncan, vice president of real estate for Colonial Williamsburg, listed the larger projects the funding would cover in detail, which garnered a positive reaction from some council members.
“You’re accounting for how the $1.3 million is going to be used and there is certainly a lot more buy-in, but most importantly just the transparency is something that in this day and age is something that people expect with the government and with one of the very large employers in the area,” said Councilman Benny Zhang.
The most expensive of the seven categories listed under funding would be the upgrades to public facilities at $700,000. This would cover upgrades to the Market Square Tavern Stables which would include renovations to the restrooms, relocating vending machines, installing new ventilation and HVAC systems and upgrading the structure to meet ADA regulations.
The new design would provide “comfort facilities,” such as a sitting room for nursing mothers and a quiet room for parents with autistic children, which would help promote the foundation’s goal to become a leader for special needs accommodations in the community, said Robert Underwood, vice president for operations for Colonial Williamsburg.
Underwood said the stables are one of the main entrances to the Historic Area which is why it is important to make it more welcoming.
In addition, the public facilities funding would also cover other parts of the historic area, including installing sandstone curbs, improving drainage, and various other upgrades.
The next big ticket item on the grant budget was $200,000 for streetscape improvements.
Underwood said the foundation is setting the improvements as a priority based on the feedback from guests over the years. Most of the improvements would contribute to the level of comfort and address ongoing wear and tear on the historic buildings.
The foundation plans to plant more trees to create shade, which will be especially helpful during the summer months when guests have complained about the heat in the historic area. In addition, there will be benches along walkways and improvements to the drainage system.
This portion of the grant would also cover the installation of sandstone curbs along the walkways which should help promote safety, Underwood said, because it will be smoother than the current material.
The rest of the funds will be used for various events, such as $120,000 for the Grand Illumination.
During the meeting Duncan said the foundation’s case for the grant by explaining the revenue the organization brings to the local area.
“We believe our ability to present and support these public events as critical to the portion of our mission dedicated to sharing the stories and celebrations of life in 18th century Williamsburg,” Duncan said.
In his presentation, Duncan said the foundation brings in about $3.9 million to the area each year through rooms, meals and a portion of the Virginia sales taxes. It also paid approximately $2.2 million on real estate and property taxes to the city.