August 5, 2019

Grants Spruce Up Facades

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Grants Spruce Up Facades

Original Article in Mining Journal:

MARQUETTE — Visitors to Marquette’s downtown might notice several buildings undergoing changes to their facades this summer and throughout the coming months.

This is due to a series of facade improvement grants awarded to downtown properties by the Marquette Downtown Development Authority in conjunction with one-time grant funding the MDDA received from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Facade Restoration Initiative pilot program.

“To be able to partner with the MEDC to do that, as well as partnering with these property owners, is just an outstanding collaboration to work together to enhance our beautiful downtown,” MDDA Assistant Director Rebecca Salmon said.

The grants, totaling $323,000, with $300,000 coming from the MEDC’s grant program, were awarded to 10 property owners in downtown Marquette, Salmon said.

The aim of the grant program is to help property owners make “impactful improvements” in their exterior building facades, she said.

This is one of ten downtown properties awarded a facade improvement grant by the Marquette Downtown Development Authority in conjunction with one-time grant funding the MDDA received from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Facade Restoration Initiative pilot program. (Photos courtesy of Great Northern Title and Abstract)

The projects are spread out through Marquette’s downtown, with grant money awarded to businesses along Third Street and Baraga Avenue, as well as businesses along West Washington Street.

“In essence, what we had here were these pockets of rehabilitation in each different area of downtown that would help to revitalize their respective neighborhoods,” Salmon said.

In totality, Salmon said, the project garnered about $865,000 in investments, with the MEDC grants matching up to $50,000 contributed by each business, the MDDA contributing $30,000, and the investments made by each property owner.

The MDDA has been “thrilled to be part of this program,” and to be one of three sites selected from a pool of 52 applicants for the grant’s pilot program, Salmon said, because it’s showed how much property owners want to “improve downtown and add that unique feel.”

The MDDA received 26 applications for the project, Salmon said, noting grants were scored competitively on 17 factors, including the proposed project’s scope and impact.

The 10 property owners awarded grants were: Be Kind LLC; Breakers Roadhouse; Great Northern Title & Abstract Inc.; Pemble Properties LLC; The Preserve; Superior Hearing Aid Center; Symbios LLC; Third Base Bar; Third Street Bagel and Veridea Group LLC.

The selected properties have until the close of the grant, at the end of 2020, to complete the work.

While the property owners still have another year and a half left to complete the projects, many have been started and a few have even reached their very final phases of facade construction, Salmon said.

In the heart of downtown, facade improvement work has recently been completed at the building at 153 W. Washington owned by Veridea Group.

The building, which houses HotPlate, Lundin Mining, Richardson Jewelers, ProMetric and Hall Contracting, was built in the 1930s. It was purchased by Veridea Group in 2003 and transformed into a multi-tenant space after formerly being a large, single-tenant building.

The aim was to “simplify the facade and make it more historically accurate,” Veridea Group Director of Development Michele Thomas said, noting that the work included replacement of wooden windowsills and doors with limestone and metal, respectively; replacing wooden and drywall columns on the exterior with masonry and brick, painting the trim and redoing various architectural moldings and details.

“It was time for a new facelift if you will. The most recent renovation was in 2003. So it had been 16 years since anything had been done with that building,” Thomas said, noting Veridea was grateful to receive the grant.

Another example can be found along Third Street at Third Street Bagel, which has been undergoing facade construction in recent months, with completion anticipated in the next week or so.

The shop had long been looking at making facade improvements but found a “final price that was looking painful” prior to being awarded the grant, Christal Silta of Third Street Bagel said in an email.

“Our storefronts in downtown Marquette are our billboards and the weather in Marquette really takes a toll on them,” Silta said. “The high cost of making improvements can be prohibitively expensive and the grant opportunities take the edge off project costs. I think that us small businesses in Marquette find huge relief in these grants to make improvements that we may otherwise not be financially able to make happen.”

Overall, Silta said she “was really moved” and grateful for the funds.

“I think the grant program motivates small businesses like mine to take the needed steps to reinvest in our businesses and ultimately in our community,” she said.

Along West Baraga Avenue, facade work is also nearing completion at Great Northern Title and Abstract. Jill Schewnke, co-owner and treasurer; Amy Thomas, co-owner and title researcher and Julie Hartung, co-owner and vice president, purchased the building and business last summer.

“The facade grant came along at the perfect time,” Schewnke said, noting that as new owners, the group is grateful for the grant and felt “changing and updating and cleaning up the front of the building was perfect timing for us.”

The approach to the facade improvement has been largely informed by the building’s history, they said, noting they performed extensive research at the Marquette Regional History Center before starting the project.

A big piece of it, they said, was fitting in with the surrounding sandstone and brick architecture.

“We wanted to tie in with the other businesses in our area and scheme that we’ve got going here,”Thomas said.

The facade’s brickwork has been repainted and is currently awaiting new signing, awnings and lighting, which will be installed within a week or so, they said.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is