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City on right path in pursuing facade grant

Although there are many ways a downtown in particular can improve its appearance, facades provide some of the most visible means to looking better, particularly to tourists. Residents already know what’s inside a building, but a business with an attractive outside is more likely to draw in customers than a dilapidated one.

The Negaunee City Council recently gave the go-ahead for City Manager Nate Heffron to submit a $651,000 grant application for facade upgrades to four downtown buildings along Iron Street.

The buildings involved in the Community Development Block Grant process are: Grand Effex Salon at 323 Iron St.; 308 Iron St., formerly Adoras Antiques; Lowenstein’s Antique Marketplace at 334 Iron St.; and 331 Iron St., home to the City Green Market and Old Bank Building Antiques.

The objective of the CDBG program is to provide an area-wide benefit to low- to moderate-income communities.

The council’s action will show the Michigan Economic Development Corp. the city is behind the facade projects.

Grants can be an economically efficient way to improve an area. For example, grants from the MEDC can support up to 75 percent of a project’s cost.

Two cases in point: Tino’s Pizza and Smarty’s Saloon, also located along Iron Street. In 2018, they combined private funds with nearly $200,000 in CDBG funds to upgrade their buildings’ exteriors.

Heffron said those establishments already have seen an increase in business and have been the catalyst for other businesses to reinvest in their buildings.

The fact that facade improvements can be contagious shouldn’t be surprising. Who wants to own a business in a blighted building when the one next door has a new awning, paint job or other improvement?

For the most recent CDBG application, the city of Negaunee would have to fund up to $26,000 for grant administrative costs.

We believe it’s well worth that money for Negaunee to invest in its downtown.

Although all areas of a community should be well tended, a downtown serves as the heartbeat of a city. Having beautiful facades is one of the best ways to keep it beating.

— The Mining Journal

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