Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 16, 2018
Progress

Downtown façades

Storefronts around Fairfield’s square get makeover
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Aug 03, 2018
Photo by: PHOTO COURTESY OF MELANIE CARLSON This is the façade on the Elks building on the west side of Fairfield’s square. It was remodeled in 2016 during the downtown façade restoration project in which its light blue panels on top were replaced with brown panels, its metal awning was removed and replaced with individual awnings above each storefront, and false windows and lights were added near the top.

A project to renovate Fairfield’s downtown storefronts was completed last year.

The downtown façade project began in 2016 after eight building owners comprising 16 addresses agreed to remodel their storefronts, with help from the city and a grant from the state.

The project was expected to cost $1 million, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority agreed to supply half of that in a Community Development Block Grant. Property owners would cover 38 percent of the cost, and the city would pick up the rest, in the neighborhood of $100,000.

The scope of the project was later reduced to just $600,000, with 62 percent of that coming from the CDBG grant, 33 percent from the property owners and 5 percent from the city.

The state’s development authority wanted the participating businesses to be as ecologically-conscious as possible, which is why they required contractors to conform to the Iowa Green Streets Initiative, which mandates energy-efficient windows, caulking and durable products.

Christner Contracting Incorporating won the bid, and began working on façade construction after Labor Day 2016, starting on the west side of the square and proceeding clockwise.

The participating buildings were:

• Morning Star Studio (owned by Brian and Jewel McDonald);

• India Café (including neighboring building U.S. Cellular; owned by Paramjeet Singh);

• Hal and Rita Schwall Goldstein’s building on the northeast corner housing Chickadee and The Collector’s Store;

• Central Park Furnishings (owned by Neil Cunningham);

• The Elks building;

• Davis and Palmer Real Estate (owned by Chris and Debbi Davis);

• Brown Law Office (including State Farm; building owned by Kathy and Mike Brown); and

• ERA Fairfield Real Estate (owned by Jim Horras)

 

Property owners react

Chris and Debbi Davis played a role in renovating two façades, their own at Davis and Palmer Real Estate and the Elks Building. Chris was once the exalted ruler of Fairfield Elks, and wife Debbi was the first female to hold that position. Chris was on the Elks’ board of trustees during the planning stages of the remodeling project.

Curtis Architecture & Design drafted a mockup that was within the Elks’ budget. The Elks board picked the colors, including the brown to replace the light blue paneling that covered the top two-thirds of the building. The big steel awning was removed and replaced with new awnings over the individual storefronts. False windows and lights were installed above to break up the massive expanse of the solid color panels.

Before renovation, the Davis and Palmer building had a steeply sloped mansard roof, installed by Chris Davis’s father in the 1960s “to make it look hip.”

“We refurbished the front of the building back to the original look,” Davis said. “We put all new windows in the upper floor of the building. There are a ton of windows up there. It was a great benefit to our apartments upstairs, and gave me a good excuse to remodel them.”

Most of the construction took place from the fall of 2016 through the spring of 2017.

“This was probably the most extensive of any of the downtown remodels,” Davis said. “We rejuvenated the alcoves [bump outs] upstairs. They were 130 years old, original to the building, built in 1889.”

Davis said one of the guidelines of the downtown façade project was to return storefronts to their original appearance, and that’s what he did. Remodeling the Davis and Palmer building cost the couple $43,000. Remodeling the Elks cost the club about $24,000.

“It’s all work that needed to be done,” Davis said. “The Elks have been talking about remodeling the front of the building for years, and it was a good excuse to get it done.”

‘Eye-catching’ look

Missy Atwood owns Kim’s Kottage in the Elks building. She was a registered nurse for 34 years until taking over the cottage on July 5.

“I think the Elks did an amazing job,” she said. “The building stands out, and flows with the rest of the buildings on the square.”

Atwood said she likes the older feel, and she appreciates the lights above the individual storefronts.

“Before, the building wasn’t that eye-catching,” she said.

Bill Shields owns The Collector’s Store on the north side of the square, in a building owned by Hal and Rita Schwall Goldstein. Shields said the old blue and white awning was torn and needed replaced. The new one is brown, red and tan.

“The storefront wasn’t as colorful as it is now,” he said. “It looks good.”

Kate Van Pelt owns Chickadee, also owned by the Goldsteins. Van Pelt has owned the business for the past 5.5 years, and said the changes look great.

“We got a new awning, replaced the windows in the apartments upstairs and did some brick work,” she said.

Kathy and Mike Brown own the building on the south side of the square that contains Brown Law Office and State Farm. The Browns had already remodeled a portion of their storefront before the downtown façade project, painting the bricks a dark red.

The Browns removed the energy-efficient Anderson windows and replaced them with larger ones that fit an older style.

“We’ve enjoyed the extra light inside,” Kathy said. “It is a bit colder in the winter. The secretaries in front have heaters by their toes.”

Kathy said she and her husband were happy to be part of a project that made Fairfield’s square even more beautiful.

Brian and Jewel McDonald own Morning Star Studio – Creative Arts and Yoga Center on the east side of the square. The studio is on the second floor where the VFW once was. Below it are storefronts for Gupta’s Vegetarian Restaurant and Too Good 2 Be Threw, and a third office that houses Noah’s Raw Chocolate and Bubbling Brine Brothers, though that is not open to the public.

The McDonalds are still rehabilitating their façade. A couple things slowed them down: the bricks behind the old façade needed so much tuck pointing that it doubled the cost of renovation; and the death of Dave Randall, owner of Field of Dreams music shop in the building, forced the couple to remodel the interior of that office, too.

Jewel said the entryways, which are just bare concrete, will be spruced up, and an awning and a light will be installed over each storefront. The window trim on the second story will be painted, too.

 

City involvement

City Engineer Melanie Carlson, who was employed at French-Reneker-Associates at the time of the project but still deeply involved, said the initial plan for the façade improvements was much larger than what ultimately occurred.

At first, 15 building owners expressed an interest in the program, but as the costs became known, that number was whittled down to eight.

The project took longer than expected. It began in the summer of 2016 and ended the summer of 2017. City officials hoped it could have been done in just one construction season.

Carlson said the delays were caused by a few factors, one of them being the lengthy process for approving change orders. Since three entities funded the project, they all had to sign off on any alterations.

“The contractor also had issues on other jobs that pulled him away,” Carlson said.

Carlson said the city was ultimately pleased with the final product, though she acknowledged that many officials hoped for a larger, flashier project.

“The architect and the contractor did a good job of working with the property owners to get what their building needing,” she said. “The city would have wanted more eye-catching changes, but we were glad that property owners were able to replace windows and switch lights to LEDs.”

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