CW encourages downtown facade improvements

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Updating a storefront takes money and for downtown Canal Winchester business owners looking to improve their buildings’ facades, a proposed city incentive program could be the answer.

During a May 2 Canal Winchester City Council work session, Development Director Lucas Haire discussed an Old Town Facade Improvement Program, which is designed to encourage and support investment in existing buildings in the city’s historic district.

The program supports efforts to preserve and restore facades through a grant program administered by the city and the Canal Winchester Industry and Commerce Corporation (CWICC). Approved applicants can receive up to $7,500 through a dollar-for-dollar reimbursement grant, with a minimum of $1,250 in matching funds for a $2,500 project. With seed money from the bed tax fund, the initial proposed budget is $30,000 for 2016.

“We want to spread the money around and make it more impactful,” said Haire. “It encourages additional investment in the community and historical preservation. Hopefully, this will be the carrot they (business owners) need to make improvements.”

To qualify for the program, applicants must own a commercial or mixed-use building or be a business owner with building owner authorization, located within the target area and with no tax delinquencies for the previous three years.

Funding is only available for improvements to facades visible from a public right of way and must have a total project value of at least $2,500 with a grant request of $1,250 and up to $15,000 with a grant request ceiling of $7,500. Projects over $15,000 are eligible for the maximum $7,500 grant.

All improvements must comply with Landmark Commission guidelines and all applicable building codes. Buildings with significant architectural features that were covered or removed are required to, as closely as possible, restore and maintain those features. The cost of architectural fees is an eligible part of the total project cost.

“Projects will be reviewed by the CWICC,” said Haire. “They must be approved by Landmarks.”

The variety of eligible improvements include: uncovering and restoration of historical facades; removal of obsolete signs and hardware; repair of original architectural details; storefront window replacement and repair; signage installation and improvement; facade cleaning, repainting and repair of facade; door repair or replacement – if being taken back to original historical character and installation of decorative lighting and upgrading of existing fixtures on external facades.

Applicants must use private, non-city funds to match the grant and will be reimbursed at the conclusion of the project, after certification of project costs and verification of compliance with the approved plans.

According to Haire, neighboring communities offering a similar program, but not setting a minimum grant amount, end up funding a lot of smaller projects, such as sign replacement.
“Our goal is to think bigger and encourage historical preservation,” Haire said. “It’ll be a learning process this year.”

The list of ineligible improvements includes: interior improvements; removal of architecturally important features; new construction and additions; sidewalk repairs; planting or landscaping; projects started prior to an executed agreement; residential properties; conversion of residential property to a commercial use or parking lot resurfacing.
Participants must agree not to change or alter the improved facade for five years without prior written approval from the CWICC. The property must maintain compliance with all applicable building codes and the city maintains the right to request any balance of funds returned if new violations are not corrected.

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