Downtown façade program explained by MEDC

by Peter Jakey-Managing Editor

The Downtown Development Authority hosted a well-attended meeting Wednesday at the Industrial Arts Institute.

Members of the business community and community heard from Dan Leonard of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, who was there to explain a façade improvement program grant.

Tom’s Family Market intends to apply through the city to improve its storefront, but needs a partner to move forward.

According to city manager Joe Hefele, “The grant could be anywhere from 50 to 75 percent.”

Hefele said the grant is not for minor exterior maintenance. “It must result in a true impact, a noticeable improvement to the storefront that makes folks say ‘wow!’”

All grant dollars must be spent on the façade facing the street. Match dollars can be spent on essential parts of the building that do not face the street (new roof, new boiler, overhaul of inside), said Hefele.

Tom Esson, the architect the city used on the police building as well as Tom’s architect, was present to speak to business owners as well as to discuss preliminary architectural costs.

“Over the next few weeks we will be determining who may be interested, and I suspect MEDC, the architect, and I will be meeting with those folks to determine whether project is eligible,” said Hefele.

By April 30, the city will need to know what businesses are committed to being involved in the program. From May 1 through June 30, preliminary architectural work will be done before a meeting with MEDC.

MEDC says most, if not all, dollars must be spent in the heart of the downtown.

Leonard commented to Hefele that he has had several kick off events in other communities that were not nearly well attended as this week’s meeting in Onaway.

“The turn out was by and large a positive,” said Hefele.

Grant funds will be awarded by the end of September with bid documents to be done from October through the end of January 2016. The project would go out for bid in Feb. 2016 with work to be completed from May through September 2016.