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DDA OKs fiscal year’s last facade grant

ALPENA — Each year the Alpena Downtown Development Authority accepts applications for its three facade grants that can be issued each fiscal year. During Tuesday’s meeting it approved the final one for 2016-17 and has two others lined up for 2017-18.

Each grant must come from a business or property in the DDA and be used to help cover the cost of improving the exterior of buildings. Each $5,000 grant also can be put toward larger projects, such as the remodeling of Owl Cafe and Alpena Furniture.

The design committee reviewed six application requests and made the recommendation to the board that the final grant of 2016-17 be awarded to Stephen Werth for his property at 107 N. Second. The second recommendation is for two of next year’s grants go to Todd Britton and Thunder Bay Properties, also on Second Avenue.

Britton is on the DDA board and on the design committee, but Executive Director Ann Gentry said she was comfortable giving the funds to a board member because Britton didn’t participate in the review process involving his properties. She said the application also was clear that he was willing to make the extra investment needed to make improvement on the property.

“He didn’t vote and he actually offered to leave the room during discussions,” Gentry said. “He obstained through the entire process in terms of his application and he will not vote on it when the board does.”

The six grant requests is high, according to Gentry. She said as other properties get makeovers, owners of ones that haven’t are beginning to take action on their own. She said she hopes next year the DDA will be able to increase the amount of grants available.

“There really is a ripple down effect,” Genry said. “People are seeing the positive changes around them and I believe it inspires them to do more. Maybe they don’t want to stick out, so they invest on making their building look like it originally did.”

Besides offering more grants, Gentry said she would like to have a database set up by DDA that would provide property owners historic information about their building so when they are restored it is easier for the owners to know what it will look like and what will be involved in the construction and cost.

“That is something I would like to see added in the facade program down the road,” Gentry said.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.

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