Mayor secures façade improvement grant

Published 8:55 am Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Nick Shelton

Throughout the last 18 months, patrons to downtown businesses and the entrepreneurs who operate them have watched a once forlorn historic building blossom into a modern, fashionable facility.
The former Gallery Building at 127 E. Main St. has received some TLC since being purchased by UltraCamp, a company that manages camps through web-based software. SLR Pilates has since moved into the lower level of the building and recently expanded to a newly completed part of the building, allowing the business to grow not only its space, but its services.
As Niles Main Street Director Lisa Croteau puts it, “the growth has been exciting to watch,” so much so that it has inspired other downtown business owners to enhance their own storefronts.
Thanks to a grant secured by recently elected Mayor Nick Shelton, those dreams may soon be able to come true.
Less than a month ago, an investor that wishes to remain anonymous approached Shelton and told him funds may be available, but the city would need a solid plan for how the money would be used. Shelton recognized the need for aesthetic and structural enhancements and developed a plan for a façade improvement program.
“I believe a resurgence of Niles starts with a resurgence of the downtown,” Shelton said. “Beautifying downtown buildings will make the entire downtown look better.”
Although all of the details have not yet been worked out, Shelton and the Niles Main Street Committee have determined that downtown business and property owners within the DDA boundaries may apply for a low-interest loan to be used for infrastructure repairs and improvement. Shelton estimates the loans may be up to $5,000 each.
Building and business owners may also be eligible for façade grants, which would not need to be paid back.
Croteau said these loans could be used for any number of improvements including roofing, electrical and heating and cooling work in addition to aesthetic improvements.
“We’re still investigating what other communities do with similar projects in order to determine how best to proceed,” Croteau said. “It’s a lot of money but it’s not a lot of money when you’re talking about buildings, and we want to be able to maximize the funds as much as possible.”
Shelton and the DDA recognize that downtown business owners are committed to improving the downtown, and this grant will in turn invest in them.
“Basically it’s about providing money to be invested in brick and mortar building infrastructure and façade projects that are typically difficult to find financing for,” Shelton said.
As the downtown continues to see fewer and fewer vacant spaces, Shelton sees this as yet another step toward creating a successful and prosperous business district.
“I also see this as an incentive for new business owners to choose Niles as their location,” he said. “If they know they can come in and secure a grant for façade improvements, it may entice them to choose Niles.”
A number of details are still being worked out, and will be discussed at the city council meeting Monday. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Niles Fire Station Complex at 1345 E. Main St.