Condition of buildings: So far, so good

Published 7:46 am Thursday, June 19, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Tim Batton was truly amazed with the integrity of the first bricks uncovered when the first Kawneer aluminum store fronts were taken down on Main Street Tuesday.
Removal of the aluminum facades on Main Street is the first step in Niles' downtown revitalization project.
Batton's impression is shared by construction workers and other city officials who have laid their eyes on the bricks that have been uncovered so far.
Batton said Mark I Restoration foreman Chip Gulley, and field supervisor Jim Schumacher with project engineers the Troyer Group, Ind., assessed the bricks before he did.
Howell-based Mark I Restoration specializes in restoration and was awarded the construction contract for the downtown revitalization project at a city council meeting last week.
The Troyer Group, who have done architectural assessments of the buildings downtown, recommended Mark I Restoration be awarded the construction contract during that same meeting.
Niles' downtown revitalization project is made possible with a $780,000 loan/grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., and generous donations from local foundations and the city.
The $780,000 will be turned into a grant if the city can create 39 jobs on Main Street before September 2005.
If they fail to create those jobs, they will have to pay back the money at a rate of $20,000 per job not created.
The project also includes creating housing units on the second and third floor of downtown buildings, a new streetscape and a major sewer project.
Before removal of the aluminum facades began, many here speculated about the bricks' condition after 30 years of being hidden away behind the facades.
Juan Ganum, Niles' community development director, like everyone else, was unsure what to expect once the store fronts came down.
But, he was pleasantly surprised to see the bricks and the buildings were much better than many people expected.
He hopes the pattern will continue as more aluminum store fronts are being removed.
Michele Boyd, Downtown Development Authority chair, said so far things are looking good.
But she said this is just the beginning of the restoration project and there is a long way to go.
Boyd hopes the buildings on Main Street that have their aluminum facades removed will show few signs of wear.
Lisa Croteau, Downtown Development Authority director, wasn't really surprised when she saw the quality of the bricks.
Croteau said many communities that have removed Kawneer aluminum facades have found buildings without store fronts have weathered worse than buildings with aluminum store fronts.