Grants lend a cool new look to downtown

By ED MERRIMAN Baker City Herald June 03, 2009 02:01 pm
Donations from the Leo Adler and Robert W. Chandler funds help several business owners install awnings

Canvas awnings sewn and installed by Greg and Les Pointer of Ne-Hi Enterprises are sprucing up downtown buildings thanks in part to matching grants administered by Historic Baker City Inc.

“We have approved matching grants for several awnings as part of our Destination Downtown grant program,” said Ann Mehaffy, HBC program manager.

HBC’s Destination Downtown program was started in 1993 to establish Baker City as the premier rural downtown experience in the Pacific Northwest through the preservation and promotion of the downtown district’s buildings, Mehaffy said.

So far this spring, HBC has approved more than $26,000 in matching grants that reimburse property owners for 50 percent of the cost of facade improvement projects, to a maximum $5,000 per project.

“Awnings are the first thing people notice when they drive downtown,” Mehaffy said.

In addition to beautifying downtown buildings, Mehaffy said awnings also provide a shady spot for people to enjoy while they’re shopping or exploring the historic district.

New awnings have been installed either for the first time or to replace torn and tattered awnings at five businesses: including the Sycamore Tree, Cunningham Financial, New Directions Northwest, Aud’s and Ends, and Kicks Sportswear.

“We’ll be doing an awning too for the Pythian Castle (at the corner of First and Washington),” Mehaffy said.

From the Main Street sidewalk outside Kicks Sportswear, owners Ryan and Kaylin Chaves watched as the Pointers installed the custom-made awning.

“This is all part of the downtown beautification,” Ryan Chaves said.

Chaves said he likes the fact that local businesses are paying half the cost, while HBC is using its grant money for projects that keeps local residents working.

 “I like that it’s family-owned businesses doing work for family-owned businesses,” Chaves said.

The Chaveses said they are putting the $500 grant they received from the Baker City Council this year toward their half of the $4,950 awning.

Mehaffy said that in addition to awnings, other types of projects ranging from exterior painting at the Geiser Grand Hotel to masonry and carpentry work have also been approved for facade improvement grant funds this spring.

Matching funds were also awarded for paint and repair work on the front of the vacant Baker Furniture Store next to the Geiser Grand, which is owned by Grand History LLC, Mehaffy said.

“We received nine applications for this round of funding,” Mehaffy said. “So far it looks like we are going to be awarding between $26,000 and $29,000 in matching grants.”

Matching funds awarded so far range from $1,100 to the maximum of $5,000.

Money for the grants came from a $30,000 donation from the Leo Adler Community Fund, and $5,000 from the Robert W. Chandler Fund.

Any leftover money would be added to the next round of Destination Downtown matching grants, which will open for applications later this summer for facade renovations to be completed by Dec. 1, Mehaffy said.

Also, the Oregon Main Street Program, administered by the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department, has awarded HBC a grant of $13,333 for the next round of facade improvements.