Waynedale Political Commentaries




26 projects in targeted locations to make exterior improvements


Recently I announced that the City’s $400,000 commercial façade grant program will result in nearly $1.1 million of private investment for improving commercial properties in Fort Wayne. These 26 projects will infuse $1.47 million into the economy.

I originally required the program to be a dollar-for-dollar private match, but many property owners expanded the scope and decided to build to larger projects that included some interior work or larger exterior projects. The grant totals ranged from $2,250 to $40,000. The grants covered costs such as window and door replacements, masonry restoration, new paint, signage and landscaping.

I think of our commercial façade grants as a ‘stimulus package’ for Fort Wayne’s small businesses. I have had a commitment to Fort Wayne’s neighborhoods and our business corridors from the day I took office. This grant program really encourages investment in Fort Wayne businesses by creating the economics of the first impression. Both customers and neighbors appreciate appealing aesthetics, and it can only enhance our business community.

Today’s annou-ncement was at Prairie Quest Consulting, 620 E. Berry Street. This woman-owned business moved to Fort Wayne’s East Central neighborhood and decided to apply for the grant as part of its overall investment in rehabilitating the structure.

Stacey Smith, Prairie Quest Consulting’s president and CEO said the City’s façade grant program was instrumental in her plans to purchase a building and relocate to downtown. Her company committed to using local contractors and suppliers for all the work, so Prairie Quest’s investment as well as the City’s grant stayed in the Fort Wayne economy. She has been very appreciative to my administration for creating this program. This is exactly the kind of public-private leverage that takes the best of what business can do with the partnership of City government, according to Smith.

To qualify, projects had to be within the City’s Economic Development Target Areas. Many of the projects are located along key commercial corridors, including North Anthony Boulevard, Wells Street and Broadway. Most grants went to companies that have been in the same location for many years and others that are newer occupants.

One of those companies that used a grant for an existing location was G.I. Joe’s Army Surplus at 1638 N. Wells Street.

Shawna Nicelley, co-owner of G.I. Joe’s, said the facade grant program allowed her company to dream bigger. The grant served as catalyst for her building, encouraging her to do more improvements. She said they have heard positive feedback from their customers and their neighbors by improving not only the property but their neighborhood. The city’s $10,000 investment is bringing over $30,000 of improvements in one building.

The City was also able to add five projects since the original recipient list was announced. I initially announced 21 projects, but because of lower construction bids or cost-saving recommendations from the grant’s design review committee, almost $59,000 became available. That money was then granted to five other companies that were part of the original application process.

Four of the projects are complete. The City reimburses the grant recipients after the work is finished. Work on the remaining locations is expected to be finished by the end of 2009.


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