Photo by Elvert Barnes, via Flickr

A newly created fund sets aside $50,000 a year through 2021 to help pay for building rehabilitation, signage and other efforts preserving Baltimore’s historic sites and neighborhoods.

The Baltimore City Historic Preservation Fund, announced yesterday, will offer grants to nonprofits and other tax-exempt organizations to preserve the city’s historic properties and areas, be it through physical work on buildings or educational initiatives like signage.

The fund has been years in the making, planned jointly by Preservation Maryland, the Maryland Historical Trust, the nonprofit Baltimore Heritage and the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, a.k.a. CHAP.

Johns Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage, explained that the Maryland Historical Trust has already been collecting money for this for roughly a decade. Typically, it’s come into the pot from mitigation, in which a developer and the Maryland Historical Trust end a review by signing an agreement for the former to donate money to historic preservation after it gets the trust’s green light to raze a historic building.

Hopkins said mitigation only applies to cases where a developer (which, we’ll note, could be a conventional private firm or a public agency that’s developing a property) is receiving state funds to demolish a structure, as with Project C.O.R.E., or is planning to demolish a building on state property.

Through mitigation, the trust has collected enough money to offer $50,000 in total grants for each of the next three years under the new program, Hopkins said. The Baltimore Community Foundation will collect the funds from mitigation, and Preservation Maryland will administer the grants.

The application, now open and running through April 12, says applicants should be able to prove their idea will highlight a neighborhood or site’s historical importance, help produce a transformative effect and have the community’s support, among other criteria. It recommends (though doesn’t require) that organizations apply for grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, and secure a match of at least 10 percent beforehand.

Hopkins is confident the new program can produce a tangible effect.

“We’re pretty optimistic that $50,000 a year can do some real good on the ground,” he said. He offered some examples of potential grant-funded projects, like fixing a roof on or stabilizing a historic structure, or installing signage near a site to explain what it once was.

CHAP Executive Director Eric Holcomb said the small grants could also be used to fund a neighborhood’s application for national historic district designation, thereby spurring potential investment, or as seed money to hire a fundraiser for a larger capital project.

He also said grants could help to launch historically oriented community programs, akin to the public archaeology dig that Baltimore Heritage and the Northeast Baltimore History Roundtable supported.

“This type of fund could fund programs like that to create community pride, community history that people can support and find meaning within their neighborhood,” Holcomb said.

The Baltimore City Historic Preservation Fund is only endowed for the next several years currently, but Hopkins assured that even if the $150,000 pool runs out, the fund itself “is not gonna go away,” and will inevitably be re-funded from mitigation deals as part of Maryland Historical Trust’s review process with developers.

Tax-exempt entities can read more about eligibility requirements and how to apply here.

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...