EVART — In an effort to pump more life into Evart’s downtown, the city will host a meeting to inform building owners of state assistance available to convert the second floor of commercial spaces into apartments.

At 10 a.m. today (Wednesday,) representatives from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and several of their state partners will give a presentation on the Rental Rehabilitation Program at the Evart Depot.

Through the state program, property owners can receive up to $35,000 to renovate their building to include one or more apartments. At least 25 percent of the total cost must be funded by the owner.

The program is designed to improve investor-owned properties and spur economic development in Michigan’s downtowns, according to Michigan.gov.

“Almost every building in our downtown business district has the potential to be used or has older apartments sitting up there that haven’t been utilized,” said Evart City Manager Zack Szakacs. “(This program) creates opportunities for people to move into our community and have a place to rent.”

The Evart meeting was scheduled after Osceola County Development Coordinator Dan Massey talked with an Evart building owner seeking assistance to renovate the second floor of his Main Street building to include apartments available for rent. MISHTA representatives visited the building to approve it for the program and wanted to extend the invitation to other building owners in the area.

“They don’t want to put money in one unit and leave it at that. They’d like to see a community meeting to get broad participation from other business owners on Main Street,” Massey said. “There are a few apartments already (on Main Street) and if you get more people downtown, it just makes the downtown more vibrant.”

If building owners are approved for the program, the state’s money for the project will be administered through the city. The renovated apartments must meet American Disabilities Act requirements and landlords must agree to a standard of fairness in leasing and rent collection.

“We’ve discussed this before, but we’ve never done a community meeting like this for downtown development,” Szakacs said.

Though no one in Evart has used the program in the past, Szakacs hopes building owners take the opportunity to utilize the state-funded program while the money is available.

“I’m hoping they really take this serious. There’s an opportunity to bring citizens to Evart,” Szakacs said. “People might not be able to buy a house, but they could rent an apartment.”

The meeting will consist of a presentation from MISHTA representatives on the Rental Rehab program and presenters will be available after the meeting to answer questions. A number of individuals representing various Osceola County city and county entities have been invited.

Business and building owners from outside the Evart community also are welcome to attend the meeting to learn more about the program.

For more information, contact Massey at (231) 832-7397 or MSHDA’s Community Development Division at (517) 373-1974.