Facade upgrade

DDA expands improvement initiative

Marquette's Washington Street, which is part of the downtown district, is pictured. Recently, the Marquette Downtown Development Authority received a Downtown Facade Restoration Initiative Grant of $300,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to assist downtown district property owners with exterior improvements to their building’s facade. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — Property owners in Marquette’s downtown district looking to revamp the exterior of their building could be in luck.

Recently, the Marquette Downtown Development Authority received a Downtown Facade Restoration Initiative Grant of $300,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, or MEDC, on behalf of the Michigan Strategic Fund.

The funding helps assist downtown district property owners to make exterior improvements to their building’s facade.

Last year, the DDA initiated its Downtown Facade Improvement Grant Program, in which four property owners in the DDA’s district were awarded over $15,000 in grant funds. Later that year, the MEDC introduced a $1.5 million pilot program called the Facade Restoration Initiative to expand support for statewide facade improvement projects. Marquette was chosen as one of the three communities in the state to receive the grant through the MEDC after an intensive application process.

The grant matches 50 percent of facade restoration costs, with the DDA and MEDC reimbursing property owners once the projects are finished.

DDA Director Mona Lang said investments in building improvements can be a catalyst for increasing economic activity and help to create a vibrant commercial district.

“They result in improved customer perceptions, increased business, and increased property values. Unoccupied or under-occupied buildings become income producing,” Lang said in an email.

“Preserving and improving the downtown core helps to enhance its unique sense of place and distinguish it from outlying commercial districts,” she continued. “Even a small improvement, such as enhancing or restoring historical building elements, can make a huge visual difference. The impacts of the improvements are district wide as an improvement to one building has a positive effect on its neighboring buildings.”

For property owners to be eligible for grant funding, facade projects must meet a minimum of $5,000 in total costs. The maximum grant reimbursement is $50,000. All projects must be completed and reimbursed no later than Dec. 1. 2020, according to the DDA’s website.

The DDA Board of Directors will allocate funding for the program annually. The grants are provided on a first-come, first-served basis and are limited to one per property per fiscal year.

The funding is available to property owners with buildings in the DDA district that contribute to the city’s tax-base with retail, commercial or professional uses.

Eligible uses of the program funds include front and rear building facade improvements; enhanced entryway and storefronts — both front and rear; American with Disabilities Act-related building upgrades; restoration of brickwork, masonry, stucco, wood or siding; sign replacement and more.

The grant can’t be used for parking lots, mechanical systems, roof repairs or replacement, repairing code violations, new building construction, and so on.

Downtown district businesses or property owners interested in participating in the grant opportunity are asked to schedule an appointment with DDA staff to discuss their project proposal and application procedures by calling 906-228-9475. The application deadline is April 26.

For more information, visit downtownmarquette.org/dda-expands-downtown-facade-improvement-grant-program/