City applies for grant funds for 4 downtown buildings

Pictured is Iron Street located in Negaunee. Four businesses along Iron Street are partnering with the city of Negaunee in seeking Community Development Block Grant funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for a $651,000 facade improvement project. The Negaunee City Council approved a resolution on Thursday to commit up to $26,000 from its general fund to pay for administration of the grant. Tino’s Pizza and Smarty’s Saloon participated in the program in 2018, making nearly $200,000 in facade improvements. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

NEGAUNEE — The Negaunee City Council on Thursday approved a resolution to authorize the city manager to submit a $651,000 grant application for facade upgrades to four downtown buildings.

Four businesses along Iron Street have partnered with the city to seek the Community Development Block Grant funds through the Michigan Economic Development Corp., City Manager Nate Heffron said.

In the resolution, the council agreed to fund up to $26,000 for administrative costs of the grant, and designated Heffron to sign the grant agreement and payment requests.

The buildings involved in the CDBG process are Grand Effex Salon at 323 Iron St.; 308 Iron St., formerly Adoras Antiques; Lowenstein’s Antique Marketplace at 334 Iron St.; and 331 Iron St., which is home to both the City Green Market and Old Bank Building Antiques.

Heffron said the council action on Thursday would provide assurance to the MEDC that the city backs the facade projects.

“This resolution, will give a document to the state that says this council is behind this,” Heffron said. “This will not require any money at this point or writing checks. We are far from that. What we will be doing is looking for approval for you guys to allocate funds (from) somewhere once we get approved in this grant process.”

According to a March 1 press release, grants from the MEDC can support up to 75 percent of a project’s cost.

Two other Iron Street businesses, Tino’s Pizza and Smarty’s Saloon were able to combine private funding with nearly $200,000 in CDBG funds for upgrades to the exterior of their buildings in 2018.

“The goal of the city is to work with willing business owners and the MEDC to improve the visual appearance of the downtown area by lessening deteriorated or blighted buildings,” Heffron said in the release.

He said both Smarty’s Saloon and Tino’s Pizza have seen an up-tick in business since their facade improvements and have inspired other businesses to reinvest in their buildings.

He said city staff has a waiting list for the next round of CBDG funding.

Councilor Don Gladwell said Thursday he was excited to see more businesses participating in the program, and expressed support for the city funding the administrative cost of the grant.

“I am just ecstatic that we have more businesses that are willing to jump on board with this. We also all know (what) you can do with this program,” Gladwell said. “And it’s just going to get more business owners downtown involved in years to come. (And) $26,000, not to sound like it’s not a lot of money, but when it comes to the overall funds that we are getting from the CBDG on this, it is just a drop in the bucket, and well worth it.”

Heffron said while the project is in its preliminary stages and is awaiting MEDC approval, he hopes to be able to break ground on the work in late summer.

“The city of Negaunee is very grateful to the MEDC for their investment in our community,” Heffron said in the release. “We all know that this would not have been possible without their assistance.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.