Facade backing: Council to review program to revitalize downtown Wapak

A new program proposed by a Wapakoneta business organization hopes for city financial  support and municipal backing to help property and business owners improve the façades of downtown buildings.

Downtown Wapakoneta Partnership (DWP) representative Sue Siesel outlined Monday a planned façade improvement program for Wapakoneta City Council members to review and requested financial support of $10,000 each year for the next three years.

“We really feel and feel very strongly through our research and our conversations, through our look into other communities who have supported their downtowns with funding for façade improvement that this is an investment that will not only enhance the environment of our downtown where over 650 people work but will attract future businesses, attract people in the future who will want to invest in downtown and bring visitors to a community and a downtown that we have an awful lot of pride in and commitment to,” Siesel said. “We consider this a grass roots foundation for a commitment to the downtown preservation.”

Mayor Rodney Metz called the program “a great way to encourage improvements and give some incentives to property owners.”

“I don’t have a problem with the city participating financially with the program,” Metz told the Wapakoneta Daily News after the meeting. “I understand the city budget is very tight and finding money for the program would be up to the Finance Committee.

“I would support something of this nature because we need to face the fact that we have put a lot of money into the downtown and there are a lot of individuals and businesses who have put a lot of money and hard work into the downtown,” he said. “I look at this as a way for all of us to work together to improve the city and the downtown.”

While the planned program is a grant program, Metz also would back an effort to create a revolving loan fund for façade improvements.

Council President Steve Henderson placed the issue with 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Lee and the Lands and Buildings Committee for further review.

“We would ask you to consider aiding us with approximately $10,000 per year for the next three years in order for us to get this program up and running over the next five years and get the maximum investment in our community as possible,” Siesel said. “It is very possible that if we can fund this, and our goal is to fund two to three projects per year, over the next five years we could see over $300,000 invested in our downtown.

“We are extremely excited as a group to start this program and we would really like your partnership along with the rest of the Wapakoneta community to get this moving forward in 2013,” she said.

DWP members first discussed the creation of a façade improvement program during their annual meeting in January and set a goal of establishing a façade improvement fund by 2013. At that time, they also created a Façade Improvement Committee consisting of Barbara DeNisco, Pam Doepker and Siesel, who serves as the chair.

Siesel presented councilors with a document explaining program guidelines and an application for the façade improvement program. The program “is intended to encourage building renovations that address blighting conditions by offering financial incentives to property owners who improve the exterior appearance of their downtown Wapakoneta buildings within the Façade Improvement Program area.”

The program would require a 50 percent match from the property or business owner, and the grant would not exceed $10,000. The grant money would not be released until the improvements were completed and DWP staff would monitor to make sure the work is in compliance with the program.

DWP staff also would help property and business owners with securing other forms of grants and funding to help with façade improvements and other building renovations and enhancement

Guidelines for Façade Improvement Program

While individual projects may focus on one or more of the following guidelines, the DWP Façade Improvement Program’s objectives will be to achieve:

1. Façade renovation — must involve the general upgrading of a building’s external appearance focusing on the following guidelines:

• Maintenance of the historic or architectural integrity of the structure;

• Preservation, replacement and restoration of architectural features or decorative details that may have appeared on the original building façade;

• Accentuation of existing historical features through painting, restoration, replacement, cleaning or treatment of surfaces;

• Maintenance of continuity with the character of the Downtown Wapakoneta Business District, through the use of color, materials and structural design;

• Improvement or maintenance of the overall aesthetic appeal of the structure while complimenting its historical architectural integrity.

2. Architectural design services — For properties eligible for or listed on the National Register, a qualified architect should be retained for concept drawings, specifications and consultation to maintain the historic character of the building renovations

— Facade Improvement Program Program Guidelines and Application