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Ernesto Silva, interim city manager for the City of Donna. (Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)

DONNA, RGV – The City of Donna will offer two programs for downtown revitalization and cleanup along the main streets.

Donna provided two programs for business and property owners in the city. Ernesto Silva, interim city manager of Donna, said over the past 10 years, the city received numerous concerns and comments about the city’s lack of attention and opportunity to existing businesses.

“The one thing we don’t want to do is focus all on the new businesses that are going to be coming in along 493 and the expressway and let our downtown area die,” Silva said. “That’s not what this is about. We’re trying to create balance between our downtown and our corridors, what we call our economic development corridors, so that both of them can continue to thrive and provide employment opportunities and services to the residents of Donna.”

The first program, referred to as the downtown reinvestment program, gives out a loan for $5,000 at a two percent interest rate for storefront upgrades in the Donna Downtown District (D3).  Only buildings located between Business 83 and Fordyce Ave. from 8th St. to 10th St. will qualify for the loan.

“We’re hoping that our merchants downtown will take advantage of this and it would be a great opportunity for them to make improvements to the storefront and allow them to generate even more business [and] attract even more people downtown,” Silva said.

The city is working with Sam Garcia Architects out of McAllen and is putting together a uniform design for the buildings in the D3 area.

“[We’re trying] to restore some of the historical value to our buildings because… over time they’ve been painted, stuccoed and all kinds of different construction has gone on the storefront,” Silva said. “So we’re trying to bring that back to our downtown area and kind of create more of a historical area and allow for our downtown businesses to continue to thrive.”

The second program, called the demolition and cleanup program, will allow residential and commercial businesses to receive up to $1,500 for demolishing a substandard structure. The funds will be available this year after Dec. 1 and there is enough funding set aside for 30 demolitions.

The demolition grants are focused on the major streets such as Main St., Salinas Blvd and Business 83. Silva said these major streets are referred to as emerging corridors because of the increase in traffic coming from the international bridge.

“It’s a beautification project for our community,” Silva said. “At the same time it’ll provide us the opportunity to put that property back on the market so there can be a redevelopment of that property. And these corridors are turning into commercial corridors. At one time they might have been residential corridors, but now they’ve slowly been converting into commercial with the additional traffic.“

The application process for either the grant or loan are simple and similar. Those interested can contact Marga Lopez, the Economic Development Corporation executive director, at Donna City Hall (956)-464-6917 Ext. 1403.

Those applying for the downtown reinvestment program must show three years of financial statements, proof of a building permit and up-to-date taxes.

Those applying for the cleanup grants must show proof of a building permit and their taxes must also be up-to-date.