Chariton has been awarded $500,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to launch a major downtown facade improvement project --- the big news out of last evening's annual meeting of Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street.
Chamber/Main Street investors, staff members, board members, officers and friends gathered at Carpenters Hall for the dinner, meeting and program --- and to hear the announcement from Main Street coordinator Kris Patrick. Uncharacteristically, I neglected to take a camera --- there were plenty of other photographers there, but no photos here because of that. Whoops.
Several other Iowa cities also have received similar grants, but I'm not sure how many yet. There were 14 finalists during April, when several of us attended a workshop for applicants in Ames.
It's not clear when the project will be launched --- federal funds committed to the statewide effort have not yet been released to the Iowa Economic Development Authority, which administers the program. And even when funds become available, extensive planning will be required before construction begins. But at least we know that this joint city-Chamber/Main Street effort is positioned to lift off.
The owners of approximately 50 buildings in the Main Street District have given preliminary commitments to participate --- a substantial percentage that probably boosted the application. CDBG money will be supplemented by owner investment and other matches to fund the work.
The program is focused specifically on improving in an historically accurate manner the way our vintage downtown buildings look. A building owner might, for example, use the program to help open and restore upper-level windows blocked 40 years ago, or to replace inappropriate windows with reproductions of originals. Other projects might involve restoration of street-level storefronts to something close to their original appearance.
Whatever the case, it's going to be fun to watch this project develop --- and a lot of hard work for everyone involved in the program's development and implementation.
The application itself --- not an inexpensive project --- was funded by the city, using money committed to the Chamber/Main Street program. It was coordinated by city and Chamber/Main Street staff.
Facade improvement, when combined with the rapidly advancing Hotel Charitone project and upper-level housing project, also nearing the launch point, make for some fairly exciting times on the square.