A few projects already are noticeable, and at least one is finished, but Fremont’s downtown revitalization project will really begin to stand out this spring and summer.
The Fremont City Council last August approved 13 projects to receive a total of $325,500 in Community Development Block Grant matching funds. Proposals ranged in size from $5,200 to repair windows at OfficeNet, up to an $80,000 restoration at 310 E. Military Ave.
The program emphasizes façade improvements, but many projects are broader than that, with property owners providing well beyond the required matching funds.
“It’s going to be a huge visual impact, and they’re just getting starting,” said Sheryl Brown, executive director of MainStreet of Fremont. “Not very many people started them last fall. The majority of the people will start and be completed this year.”
Her organization worked as a liaison between the business owners, government officials and the State Historic Preservation Office during the grant process.
“Any time you do façade improvement, it impacts the visual appearance of the downtown and gives a sense of pride in the downtown district,” she said.
“Having an economically thriving downtown not only impacts the businesses in that area, but it also impacts the city as a whole. It gives everyone an incentive to go downtown and see the improvements and shop, eat, and explore,” she said.
“Part of MainStreet’s mission is the historic preservation of the buildings, and our downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, therefore it becomes even more important when people are doing facade and building improvements that they adhere to the State Historic Preservation guidelines of restoration,” she said.
Lou’s Sporting Goods at 523 N. Main St. is shooting for a spring time frame to remove the building’s aluminum façade that was installed by Montgomery Ward during a modernization effort in 1963.
“We’re looking at redoing the front of the building from the awning up,” said Tom Coday, vice president of marketing and operations at Lou’s.
“There are eight large glass windows on the front of the building that are covered up now with that aluminum façade. We’re going to replace those eight windows and take the aluminum façade off, then replace those windows on the second story. That will expose the offices that are up there to the street,” he said.
“I actually cut a hole from the inside and there are double-hung windows in there and they still work. That was a surprise, all the glass is in them and they still work, but they’re in pretty rough shape so we’re going to have those removed and have new windows put in,” he said.
Coday said his company wanted to improve the building’s façade, and the availability of grant money “was the stimulus that got us to move forward on it.”
“Any time you can receive grant funds on a project,” Brown said, “that is that much more incentive to make those repairs and those improvements that maybe you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do.
“Lou’s is going to be one of the biggest visual impacts, along with Yankee Peddler West and Fremont Office Equipment,” she said.
Yankee Peddler West already has completed a project that included parapet restoration, window and door replacement and painting at 541 N. Main St.
“Probably one of the greatest projects that will make a visual impact,” Brown said, “is Grace Presbyterian Church. ... It’s a huge project, and that in itself is really going to be amazing for the downtown.”
Grace Presbyterian is using a $62,000 grant to renovate the former Dime Store Days building at 109 E. Sixth St. into a church.
“We’re trying to restore aesthetically what the building looked like when it was built,” the Rev. Kyle McClellan said.
Jeremy Prunty had renovations in mind when he acquired 507-519 N. Broad St. a little over a year ago before he knew about the grant program.
“We’re going to be doing the awning, painting the whole building and putting all new front windows in. It will certainly be a drastic change between now and summer,” he said.
“We acquired the building knowing that it was going to be a work in progress, and we actually stumbled upon the grant after we bought the building, so it was a nice little bonus,” he said.
“We added a few things due to the fact that the grant would cover things like the windows, but we were planning on tuck pointing it and painting it and possibly an awning, but the awning wasn’t a priority in the beginning,” he said.
Also on Broad Street, OfficeNet is conducting a window replacement project.
“That grant funding was a welcome source for them to be able to complete that project,” Brown said, pointing out that Broad Street/U.S. Highway 77 is a major thoroughfare and an entryway to the downtown district.