Mercedes grants property owners preservation assistance

MERCEDES — When Cherity Ysquierdo went house hunting a few months ago, she didn’t realize the history behind a 110-year-old home that initially caught her eye would also afford her thousands of dollars in assistance.

That’s exactly what happened upon Ysquierdo’s, together with her husband David Ysquierdo, purchase of the property. Located on the 400 block of South Missouri in Mercedes, the home qualified for more than $3,000 in restoration efforts from the Mercedes Historic Preservation Commission’s grant program.

The commission is a seven-member advisory board of the city of Mercedes.

According to Marisol Vidales, commission officer, the program provides up to $20,000 to owners whose properties are deemed historic by the organization. As much as $10,000 is specifically available for roof repairs, $5,000 for foundation leveling and $5,000 for façade upgrades.

These are matching grants, Vidales explained, in which property owners are reimbursed half of the expenses incurred from renovations. For the Ysquierdos, the program awarded them $3,500 to help pay for $7,000 in leveling costs.

“The process is really awesome,” Ysquierdo said of the assistance, which she called “huge” for the married couple. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to come up with that money for these types of repairs. The commission was so good to work with and made the process so nice. It’s been so helpful.”

Funded by hotel occupancy tax monies, Vidales said up to $50,000 are awarded to qualifying applicants annually, with the Ysquierdos and the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville — for renovations at Our Lady of Mercy — being the latest to receive grants.

Two projects have already been completed, including $3,145 for façade work at a home on the same block where the Ysquierdos reside, and $10,000 for roofing at a business located in the 400 block of South Texas Avenue.

The criteria necessary for buildings to be deemed historic, which requires board approval, includes construction predating 1960 and the home or business being part of a locally-designated historic district or site.

Vidales said the board and city leaders view the program as a means of preserving the community’s historic structures while also assisting home and business owners. The old hotel on 236 S. Missouri is an edifice that Vidales said officials hope will be addressed by the program.

“One of the properties they made historic was the old hotel,” Vidales added. “They really want that one to be restored and brought back to its former glory.”

Until then, Ysquierdo said she plans on continuing to take advantage of the program by applying for another grant at the onset of the next fiscal year.

“The grant money is there to help restore and preserve some of our historic homes and buildings in Mercedes, and since my home was built in 1907, it’s a piece of history that’s important to the city,” Ysquierdo said.