League of Kansas Municipalities to honor Merriam for community grant program spurring economic development efforts

Merriam block party
One of the block parties this summer in Merriam. Photo courtesy of Rodney Heinsohn.

Three community grants offered by Merriam have caught the attention of the Kansas League of Municipalities.

The league is recognizing Merriam for utilizing its grants to spur economic development in the city. Merriam recently established the community grants to fund resident-led projects to improve the community.

Kate Cooley, conference and marketing coordinator with the League of Kansas Municipalities, said a city’s economic development project is judged based on how effective and measurably successful the project is. Projects must also be adaptable for other cities to replicate and adopt.

Cooley said before and after photos of some of the projects in Merriam were “impressive,” especially in regards to the landscaping work on the islands and the success of block parties over the past year.

“Other cities can easily pick this up and offer the same to their residents,” Cooley added.

Jenna Gant, communications and public engagement manager for Merriam, said the city-funded grants — the Exterior Home Improvement Grant, the Block Party Grant and the Neighborhood Island Grant — provide residents with funds to support their unique projects.

Merriam Exterior Home Improvement Grant Program
A Merriam homeowner made improvements to their driveway as part of the city’s exterior home improvement grant program

“Our city council wanted to see how it could enhance service to our community and initiated these three new grant programs in 2018,” Gant said. “The grants were so successful last year that councilmembers brought all three programs back in 2019. With that, council increased funding for two of those grant programs.”

“We hope though that if cities are able to replicate our grant programs, they should do so because it’s been so successful in Merriam. We’re definitely honored to receive this award.”

The exterior home improvement grant program covers up to $50,000 of home improvements citywide (increased from $30,000 last year). For a minimum resident investment of $4,000 (up from $3,000 in 2019), the city provides up to 20% reimbursement ($2,500 maximum) for approved exterior improvements to residents’ homes.

Block party grants fund up to $200 per party for eligible expenses only. The neighborhood island grants are a 100% reimbursement up to $500 (up from $300 last year) for each of the 20 islands in the city.

Gant said the program is so successful that residents’ home improvement projects were waitlisted in just a few weeks after the city announced the grant. Plus, the city has received positive feedback on social media about the block parties.

“The block party grant brings residents together and builds camaraderie, (and) the exterior home improvement grant allows our residents to make upgrades to their home without breaking the bank,” Gant said. “And for the neighborhood island grant, residents took advantage of beautifying one of the most visible areas in their neighborhood.”

This is the second year the League of Kansas Municipalities has offered these awards. Merriam will receive the second-ever award in economic development at the league’s annual conference in October.