It would be among the biggest single municipal investments in Logansport’s downtown — a total of $995,650 coming from the state, the city, business owners and, in one case, donations.
Winning a Main Street Revitalization Program (MSRP) grant from the state’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) would mean major improvements would be made to the facades of eight downtown properties with historical significance.
Logansport City Council on Monday approved moving forward with the application for the grant now that funding is in place for the 20 percent in matching funds.
“The improvements to these buildings, we hope, are going to be a tipping point,” said Becki Harris, Executive Director for Logan’s Landing, the Main Street organization that promotes the downtown district.
“We don’t want building owners to put off the improvements because it’s too overwhelming,” she said. “We hope by addressing this issue now, we’ll avoid issues on down the line.”
Before the city turns in the application on Nov. 22, it’s looking for public input and support in two places, said Arin Shaver, Executive Director of Planning Department.
On Nov. 12 at 5 p.m., there will be a public meeting in the City Council Chambers at the City Building, 601 E. Broadway, to explain project details. Officials are also asking that residents take a short online survey at bit.ly/LLMSRP2019 by Nov. 11.
The city applies for the 80/20 grant on behalf of the building owners. Before applying, the city had to secure it’s 20 percent of the total project cost, which amounts to $395,650 dollars according to Shaver.
The MSRP grant is capped at $600,000 for its contribution, so there was a $196,520 gap in funding. The city and Logansport Redevelopment Commission will each contribute up to $90,760 and Logan’s Landing will chip in $15,000 to close that gap.
The building owners have each agreed to pay 20 percent of the costs of their own improvements and have signed documents guaranteeing they have funding secured to do so.
The largest project in the application is also the only one in which a nonprofit organization is the building owner. The State Theatre Preservation Society has already raised $25,000 of its $56,368.62 portion through donations of $20,000 from the Cass County Community Foundation and $5,000 from Cole Hardwood. The organization has secured a loan for the rest but hopes to raise the remaining funds in the form of donations before work would begin.
“There is no way we could pass up having a quarter million dollars in work done for $31,000,” said Kevin Burkett, CEO and President of the State Theatre Preservation Society. “Having our facade restored to 1940 condition would be a huge step toward the eventual restoration of the entire theatre.”
Burkett, who is also the editor of the Pharos-Tribune, serves on the all-volunteer board of the organization and receives no compensation.
Scott Johnson, owner of Black Dog Coffee and Legacy Outfitters at 116 6th St., said that the old buildings are difficult to keep up, and more intensive than an old house.
“If they go decades without that work, it takes a program like this to bring one back to its original condition,” Johnson said.
His building was rebuilt after a fire in 1901, and there’s evidence of fire damage since. However, “this is an opportunity to kind of get it back to its original look and design. And it’s a classic building of its era,” Johnson said.
Tom Partridge, owner of the Pear Tree Gallery at 329-331 E. Market St. said it was neglect that likely led to the condition of his building and Judy’s GoodLife Emporium next door at 327 E. Market.
The owners in the 1970s removed the third floor and architecturally interesting things like the turret-style cornerpiece, then put cinderblocks in front of the windows and put up the metallic siding covering the second floor.
“It was a cheap fix. I know what they did. But they ruined a beautiful building,” he said.
The improvements to those buildings would remove that siding and put windows on the second floor, making them code-complaint for occupancy.
“The grant possibility is the only way we could do this job,” he said.
Judy Masters, his neighbor, said her emporium’s second floor is unusable because it’s so dark and you need breathing masks. However, some of the front siding has fallen and exposed the original second floor facade.
“It’s going to be like opening things on Christmas morning. I’ll be fascinated to see what’s under that siding,” she said.
Some were already considering improvements, but the grant would make it feasible to do more and sooner.
Rusty Walters said that when he moved Walters Precision Collision Repair into 230 E. Broadway more than 20 years ago, they made improvements and had been thinking of doing more, probably in three to four years.
“But this came along, and it was a great opportunity,” Walters said. “The project tipped me in the direction of doing something.”
Joel Markland purchased the former Richardson’s Cleaners at 608 E. Broadway in May so that his company could more easily do an environmental assessment of dry cleaning chemicals on it.
“Our property obviously needs some love,” he said.
He plans to sell the property now that the work with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management will soon finish, and winning this grant would help.
“It obviously makes it more marketable when somebody’s willing to make an investment in the facade,” said Markland.
The Gray Mill and Graybeal’s Carpet Plus at 500 E. Broadway has a facade that’s only 20 years old, but Mollie Graybeal said it has too much water and cracking damage, and the signs have faded. Making the MSRP improvements would be more cost effective, and “communities that have these kind of storefronts, they look more ‘homey,’” she said.
Eduardo Garcia of La Fiesta Grocery and Restaurant said they were talking to the planning department about another expansion when Shaver informed them about the MSRP. His father Vincente Garcia, the business owner, said people want to have a good building, and Eduardo sees the advantage of the improvements for them and for the city. Garcia said that his father’s feeling is that with the improvements, “it will be better for everybody,” he said.
Partridge said the work probably won’t make him more money.
“But it will look better for Logansport, and it will be preserving what needs to be preserved,” he said. “Downtown just has a better vibe to it than a strip mall.”
Masters said it’s part of being in the community.
“I think that anything that’s done has got to be an improvement, and we want to work with our neighbors,” she said.
Markland has seen this grant improve other downtowns not as vibrant.
“It does make a significant impact, and Logansport does have a living, significant downtown. And making the improvements will further encourage more investment in the downtown,” he said.
Logansport will know if it wins the grant on Jan. 9. Work could begin as soon as the 2020 construction season with 18 months to finish the work. If Logansport isn’t awarded the grant in this round, it will automatically be in the running for a second round next year.
Harris said it’s a competitive grant.
“It’s not unusual to have to apply again in the next round,” she said. If that’s necessary, then Logansport will also have a new advantage in the next round as OCRA will hold an educational meeting or web seminar to show the city how to be more effective in its application.