Hillsborough County is accepting applications for Historic Preservation Challenge grant projects that promote interest in the history and culture of the local area. The American Victory Ship and Museum in Tampa has received such grants to improve guest facilities and develop special programming that allow visitors to relive history aboard the SS American Victory.

By Brad Stager

Residents interested in preserving local history can find support for their ideas through Historic Preservation Challenge grants awarded by the Hillsborough County Department of Economic Development.

That support comes in the form of matching dollars from the county as reimbursement for expenditures incurred in completing approved projects. A maximum award of $250,000 is available.

Projects that can be considered for a grant include those that rehabilitate or restore structures of historical significance, provide compatible additions to historic properties or improve historic sites or grounds. Grants are to be used for income-producing properties and may not be used for residential projects. Private individuals and entities as well as nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply.

An example of an award that served a practical as well as a cultural purpose is a $6,000 grant that helped pay for termite remediation of four buildings in Plant City’s downtown historic district.

Heritage tourism projects that promote authentic experiences of historical narratives and artifacts are also supported, such as those awarded to the American Victory Ship and Museum in Tampa to improve guest facilities and develop special programming that allow visitors to relive history aboard the SS American Victory.

The grants have also been awarded to support events that are open to the public as well as walking tours that teach about an area’s culture and history. Heritage tourism grants are only awarded to nonprofit organizations.

Preserving and promoting local history can have a positive economic benefit, according to Rebecca Hessinger, who coordinates the grant program in her role as an economic development manager.

“Historic Preservation and Heritage Tourism projects are what create a special “sense of place” in Hillsborough County. We are very blessed in this county to have multiple historic districts and one of the only two National Historic Landmark Districts in the State of Florida. It is what makes us ‘special’ and it attracts thousands of visitors each year. That is really important to our local economy,” she wrote in an email.

The grant application process is conducted online and 5 p.m. on Friday, May 7 is the deadline to submit a project application.

Complete information about the Historic Preservation Challenge Grant is available at HCFLGov.net/HPCG, or contact Hessinger at 272-5909.

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