Downtown group shows off progress in project to renovate Niles’ Main Street
By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- People who drove or walked by the corner of Second and Main streets in Niles Wednesday afternoon couldn't avoid the smell of barbecue chicken.
Neither could they avoid seeing the progress already made as the city continues with its "Big Brown Take Down" downtown revitalization project.
The revitalization project includes removing the old Kawneer aluminum facades and fundamentally restoring up to 17 storefronts on the north side of Main Street at no cost to the owners.
So far, aluminum facades have been removed from the three first buildings on Main Street's northside, but construction workers have also started to remove the Goodwill building's aluminum facades.
A city official has said the aluminum facades have been a "blessing in disguise" because they protected the faces of the buildings from the elements.
One of the volunteers for the barbecue, Wakevainen said the promotions committee organized the barbecue in an effort to attract people to the downtown area.
The barbecue seemed to draw a steady chicken-hungry crowd as the baking afternoon sun slowly sank over the horizon.
But it isn't just promotions committee members who are glad to finally see something is happening in the downtown area.
Dr. Richard McCreedy, a retired Niles physician, and his wife, Nancy, dropped by the barbecue to pick up dinner before heading over to the Amphitheater to listen to music with fellow church members.
Although somewhat skeptical of the facade removal at first, Richard is impressed with how things are progressing.
Nancy is more convinced that the removal of the aluminum facades was the right thing to do.
With the downtown revitalization project already well under way, and so far on schedule, Juan Ganum, City of Niles community development director, offered an insight into what will happen on Main Street over the next couple of weeks.
Ganum said the three buildings that have already had the aluminum facades removed are ready for trim paint on the exteriors.
He said some of the windows and limestone windowsills on those buildings will also be replaced.
The Goodwill building will undergo the same exterior process as the three first buildings, including replacement of the windows and windowsills, he said.
Ganum also said Kathy Knoll of Gitchell Sign Co. will consult with businesses to decide what signs will be put up when the buildings' exterior renovation are completed.
Lisa Croteau, Downtown Development Authority director, has been working with the downtown merchants and feels the signs are a great aspect of the downtown revitalization program.
The downtown revitalization project was made possible by a 780,000 Michigan Economic Development Corp. loan/grant and donations from local foundations and the City of Niles.
The 780,000 will be turned into a full grant from the MEDC if the city can create 39 jobs on Main Street before September of 2005.
So far, 16 jobs have been created in downtown Niles.