Glenwood Downtown Revitalization Project Moving Forward
As many as a dozen buildings on Glenwood’s Town Square could be getting a facelift as part of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Downtown Revitalization program.
Coordinated through the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), the Downtown Revitalization Fund provides up to $500,000 in matching funds to communities for improvements and restoration of facades on privately-owned buildings in the downtown business district. All incorporated cities and counties in the state, except those designated as entitlement areas by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), are eligible to apply for and receive funds through the program.
Under the funding formula, owners of buildings selected for the revitalization project will be required to pay for 25 percent of the cost. The city of Glenwood would kick in an additional 25 percent and the CDBG grant would fund the remaining 50 percent.
“Basically, the CDBG Downtown Revitalization grant looks at, ‘How do we help upkeep the façade of the building,” said Rachel Reis, executive director of the Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce. “We know a lot of them look a little dilapidated so the idea is to maintain the historical integrity and making them sturdy.”
Reis said several business and building owners in Glenwood have expressed interest in the program.
“I think a lot of building owners have been waiting for this for a very long time,” she said. “I know they tried this 10 years ago and it didn’t gain any traction. It’s just the right time and right place to move this forward.
“You look around and there are a couple new building owners that have done a tremendous job to upkeep their buildings.”
Getting Glenwood’s downtown revitalization program in place has been a collaborative effort of the chamber of commerce, City of Glenwood and Southwest Iowa Planning Council (SWIPCO).
Reis and SWIPCO Community Development Director Alexis Fleener spoke with city leaders about the program during the Jan. 25 city council meeting. Fleener noted that not all building owners interested in the program will be allowed to participate.
“There might be some buildings that are interested in it, maybe for some minor things, that won’t be eligible if their building is in good condition,” Fleener said. “So, we need to narrow down who is eligible on the square (based on a building survey documenting blight) and let everyone know if they’re eligible or not eligible for this specific grant program.”
According to an IEDA document posted on its website, the national objective of the Downtown Revitalization Fund is “the elimination of the slum and blight.”
“The Downtown Revitalization Fund provides grants to communities for activities contributing to comprehensive revitalization in historic city centers or core downtown areas,” the document reads. “The program is primarily focused on building façade improvements to privately owned buildings in downtowns. Buildings with first floor residential use are prohibited from program participation. Work on roofs, for up to 40% of that building’s total costs, is also eligible.
“Front façades of buildings and side facades, when clearly visible from the travel lane of the adjacent public street are eligible. Rear facades are eligible only under very rare circumstances. Upper story residential units are subject to lead based paint requirements.”
Fleener said the state has become increasingly particular about the types of buildings that are selected for the program.
“They want to see the largest bang for their buck,” she said. “They want to see transformational projects.”
The application process requires an architect to be hired who will prepare preliminary cost estimates and renderings of each building improvement. The architectural costs cannot be reimbursed by CDBG funds.
At last week’s meeting, the Glenwood City Council approved an agreement with West Des Moines-based Curtis Architecture & Design P.C. (pending city attorney approval) to prepare the cost estimates and renderings for each building selected for the program. The firm would receive $1,200 per (grant defined) façade. Glenwood State Bank and the Mills County Economic Development Foundation have jointly agreed to contribute up to $12,000 for the one-time architectural costs associated with the project.
Glenwood City Administrator Amber Farnan said Curtis comes highly recommended. His firm is doing similar work for a revitalization project in Stanton.
“He’s done a lot of these projects in towns similar to our size,” she said. “He was excited about our project because of the way the square is set up. We’re still a square instead of a main street.”
Fleener said the timeline for the project will be determined partially on the desires and budgets of the building owners selected for the project.