Downtown shops to get new storefronts
The city of Fairfield learned this week it has won a $500,000 grant to remodel the façades of 17 downtown businesses.
The money will come from the Iowa Economic Development Authority through a Community Development Block Grant. The downtown property owners who will receive money to refurbish their storefronts will provide a matching contribution. The city contributed $100,000 to the project, which will go into designing the new façades.
Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy said the city and property owners are in the process of finalizing the designs for the façades with RDG and Associates of Des Moines. After agreeing on a design for each building included in the application, the contract for the remodeling will be bid, which means one contractor will replace all the façades.
Malloy said only the storefronts are being remodeled and not the buildings’ foundation or structural supports.
“The improvements will be things like new awnings, windows, tuck-pointing of bricks and painting,” he said.
Property owners can still back out of the project if they cannot afford to make the improvements even with a 50-50 matching grant, but Malloy expects most of the businesses to go through with the remodeling. He said he’s happy about how many businesses wanted to be included in the city’s grant application.
The purpose of the remodeling will not necessarily be to make the buildings look older, as is the case of historic preservation remodeling. Malloy said it would be great if some businesses had the funds to restore their old brick storefronts, but he acknowledged such historic preservation is costly and did not expect all the businesses to do it.
“That kind of restoration tends to be very expensive work,” he said. “Because the grant required us to spread the money out over 15 projects, it didn’t allow for a great deal of funding for one particular project. We’re hoping some of those properties will go that direction and remove the coverings put on their façades in 1960s and reveal the brick beneath them.”
Malloy said the plan is to coordinate the façade improvements in the downtown so they adhere to similar patterns and color schemes. All but one of the properties in the application is facing Central Park, and the one that was not is just off the square.
The city expects the design and bid phase of the project to begin this summer and fall and for construction to begin in the spring or summer of 2015. Malloy said all of the façades will be remodeled at once.