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Facade program draws $35 million in private investment

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IMPROVE: While less visible than other projects underway downtown, Reading Room Books is one of nearly two dozen businesses participating in the City’s facade improvement grant program.
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WORK: Crews prep for window installation at the Bedford Building on Wabash Street, one of the 22 properties benefiting from the second phase of the City’s facade improvement grant program.

by MACKENZI KLEMANN

mklemann@wabashplaindealer.com

and ANDREW CHRISTMAN

achristman@wabashplaindealer.com

An estimated $35 million in private investment is expected as a result of the City’s facade improvement grant program, which distributed $1.3 million to downtown-area businesses for exterior building renovations.

The Stellar-affiliated program is now in its second phase, funded through the inclusion of the downtown area in the Cinergy MetroNet tax increment finance (TIF) district overseen by the Wabash Redevelopment Commission, which met on Tuesday.

The commission heard updates on the grant program and associated private investment from Tyler Karst, project coordinator for local Main Street group Wabash Marketplace Inc.

Karst noted that 22 businesses and building owners along Market, Miami and Canal Streets participated in phase two of the facade program. Those grants have helped fund major renovations like the one underway at the Bradley Building, which will see the addition of new commercial and condo space on Canal Street, as well as the Eagles Theatre restoration. But the grants have also funded improvements for other businesses like the Crow’s Nest, Pizza King, Modoc’s Market, Reading Room Books and Bulldog Battery, according to the latest quarterly report for the Stellar program.

Karst told the RDC Tuesday that the facade program has helped transform the downtown area so much that it has caught the attention of stakeholders across the region, state and nation.

His sentiments were echoed by Keith Gillenwater, president and CEO of Grow Wabash County.

“I think it’s a testament to the Redevelopment Commission … in what (the program has) been able to leverage in private investment back into the downtown,” Gillenwater said. “It’s hard to argue with the results.”