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Negaunee renewal

City businesses get facelift

Tino’s Bar and Pizza, above, and Smarty’s Saloon along Iron Street in Negaunee, are currently undergoing a transformation. The businesses have partnered with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the city to make facade improvements that include removing inauthentic renovations in recent times. The businesses are expected to be open throughout the construction, which is expected to be completed before July 4. (Journal photos by Lisa Bowers)

NEGAUNEE — The historic character of two buildings along Iron Street will be restored before Pioneer Days in Negaunee, officials say.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. in February awarded $94,735 in Community Development Block Grant funds for facade improvements to Tino’s Bar and Pizza and Smarty’s Saloon.

The business owners will fund up to 50 percent of the renovations, which include removing inauthentic renovations made in recent times; repairing the brick facade and masonry; installation of new storefronts, new signage and energy-efficient windows; and an outdoor patio with private investments.

Shannon Terres, Tino’s manager and co-owner, said she’s not sure exactly when the building was built, but noted the structure has filled a few different roles in the community throughout the city’s history.

“Bringing back the historical look is important because it reminds people of what Negaunee used to be,” Terres said. “People like history and will come to town to see it.”

Tino’s Bar and Pizza, above, and Smarty’s Saloon along Iron Street in Negaunee, are currently undergoing a transformation. The businesses have partnered with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the city to make facade improvements that include removing inauthentic renovations in recent times. The businesses are expected to be open throughout the construction, which is expected to be completed before July 4. (Journal photos by Lisa Bowers)

Smarty’s owner Scott Soeltner said his building was originally constructed in the 1900s as a dry goods store, but was converted to a tavern some years later.

Soeltner said he is grateful to the MEDC and city officials for helping to make the project a reality.

“I was excited to bring back the old look but to be a new face on the street as well,” Soeltner said. “I love Negaunee, and am proud to be a part of the downtown scene and hope to be for many years to come.”

Both Soeltner and Terres said it would have been much more difficult to tackle the project individually.

“The city and the MEDC played a huge roll in the grant process, making it possible for us to do the renovations,” Terres said.

Soeltner echoed those sentiments.

“Thanks to the MEDC, the city of Negaunee and Lisa Wrate Architectural for helping to make it all possible,” Soeltner said.

Negaunee City Manager Nate Heffron said he is grateful to the MEDC for the grant funds for the projects, which, when completed, he hopes will appeal to tourists visiting the downtown area.

“Ultimately, this is about preserving our character and telling the story that we want to tell, preserving the historic nature of the building,” Heffron said. “Projects like this will help to create a unique experience for visitors who will tell their friends, or maybe just have a repeat visit because they enjoyed their experience in Negaunee.”

Both businesses will remain open throughout the renovations, officials said.

Heffron said the smaller facade project, while funded by a separate mechanism, will ultimately tie into the city’s historical preservation project announced at the end of March and funded through the MEDC’s Project Empire initiative.