The revitalization of a neglected commercial district or neighborhood often begins with improvements to a single building or storefront. Even simple changes such as the removal of materials, repairs or a new paint job can signal positive change and often stimulate similar improvements in neighboring buildings.
While this process sometimes begins spontaneously through the work of individual property or business owners, it can be accelerated when a community creates a façade improvement program.
Assisting local businesses with matching grants, particularly along the City’s urban corridors, the Fort Wayne Commercial Façade Grant program was developed.
Fort Wayne’s program, established 9 years ago by Mayor Tom Henry, provides financial and business assistance. These grants are incentive programs to encourage property owners and businesses to improve the exterior appearance of their buildings and storefronts. Updating the façade of a building could include new awnings, signage, more appropriate and attractive designs and materials, repairing windows, rebuilding the store front, doors, exterior cleaning, tuckpointing, painting, exterior lighting, shutters, gutters, concrete and parking lots. Design and permit fees associated with the project were also eligible construction costs.
“Locally owned and operated businesses are essential to Fort Wayne’s economic success,” said Mayor Henry. “This façade grant program helps these smaller enterprises continue to succeed and provide jobs for residents.”
Grant applications were due in December 2016 for the 2017 year. This year, the winners were announced in April, after an internal team comprised of planners, a landscape architect and historic preservationists reviewed and scored the applications.
Joining the winners is Legacy Heating and Air Conditioning in the Waynedale area. Their improvements will include signage, re-facing the exterior of the building including a bold new paint scheme, overhead & entry doors, windows, and parking lot. The City requires the building owner(s) to provide at least a dollar-for-dollar match with private funds in order to receive the grant. The total cost of the Legacy project is $98,000 with the Façade grant providing $40,000.
Legacy’s warehouse building was built in the 1960s and has never been updated. Owner Vicky Griffin said, “This will improve our customer’s experience with our company. The support we have received from our neighbors has been overwhelming. We are doing our part to make Waynedale beautiful!” Legacy’s Vice President Steve Wright is striving to have their project improvements completed by the end of 2017.
At the corner of Broadway and Bluffton Road, you will be noticing changes at the newly opened ‘07 Pub.’ Co-owners Marcus Spillman and Clancy Shank plan to change the front vestibule and doorway, add lighting and make some big improvements with the parking lot amounting to a total of $25,000, with $12,000 coming back to them in façade grant money.
“Right now we’re just trying to get through with opening the 07 Pub,” said both owners. In the future, their focus will be major improvements in the parking area which is contracted to Hipskind. The front vestibule and windows will be completed by The Glass Man, Fort Wayne.
When asked if they would recommend other businesses to apply for a façade grant, Clancy Shank said, “100%! The City is pitching in and helping. One would be crazy not to.”
Beginning improvements next week is grant recipient Shine & Hardin LLP, 2810 Beaver Avenue. “The asphalt at our business has not been improved since 1996,” stated Attorney Tom Hardin. “It is long overdue.” Local business, Brooks Construction will be paving the law firm’s parking lot area. The front entrance will be enhanced with new brick, select windows replaced, new signage on the building along with revamping the sidewalks and curbing surrounding the green spaces near the fountain have been included on bids that were submitted to revitalize the firm’s facade. Total cost of improvements amounted to $36,800. Shine & Hardin LLP will be receiving $14,000. A portion of their improvements, ie., concrete, was a 40% match.
“We are delighted to partner with the City of Fort Wayne in continuing to enhance and beautify Broadway, a project which compliments the improvements made by Shine & Hardin in 1998 with the construction of the Broadway Plaza and fountain,” stated Attorney Tom Hardin.
“Expected completion of our façade grant project is September 1st.”
These façade grants can assist in stimulating revitalization and growth and be a source of promotion to potential residents, visitors and investors.
“For the City of Fort Wayne to offer this grant and help businesses thrive is a testament of commitment to making Fort Wayne better,” expresses Vicky of Legacy Heating & Air Conditioning.
Additional businesses included in the grant are: Ziegler’s Window Coverings, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, Headwaters Counseling, Tom Steele Tires, Punch Films and Yellow Retirement Communities. All 9 businesses have pledged to contribute around $938,000 of their own private investments.
Beginning in early fall, the grant’s administration begins walking corridors and talking with prospective business owners. The City of Fort Wayne encourages business owners to call Lindsey Maksim by dialing 311 and asking for her assistance to help determine if your business or project is eligible.