Façade grants help building owners renovate historic downtown

May 27, 2017 GMT

Installing awnings, hanging signs and painting, commercial building owners in historic downtown Roseburg have been using building facade grants to renovate and improve their storefronts.

The city of Roseburg offers the grants through the Roseburg Urban Renewal Fund. After a building owner pays for a renovation project, one-third of the cost can be refunded, at a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $10,000.

To be eligible for the grant, the properties must be in both the Downtown Historic District and the Urban Renewal District in Roseburg. The current grant period ends July 1, when the next period begins.

“There are benefits to being in the Historic District. It gives people a chance to do work, and doesn’t penalize them for doing something good,” said Teresa Clemons, associate planner for the city’s Community Development Department.

The building at 318 SE Jackson St. underwent structural changes using the grant funding. Windows were replaced, the blue stucco covering the outside walls was traded for manufactured stone and a concrete entryway was constructed.

“Now it looks like it fits in the neighborhood,” Clemons said.

The building that houses Paul O’Brien Winery on Pine Street used to be covered in bleached-out white and blue paint, making it appear like a “beached whale,” in Clemons’ opinion. The paint was scraped off to reveal brick underneath, and steps and a wheel chair-accessible entryway were built to make the building more inviting.

“Now it looks like the place to go,” Clemons said.

Paul Bentley Architect used the facade grant to update logos and signage and replace awnings at the office on Jackson and Main streets eight years ago.

“It’s an easy program to do for any building owner downtown and a nice way to cut expenses on a remodel,” Bentley said.

He’s planning to apply for another grant to renovate the upstairs of his building, known as the Bell Sisters building.

The Bell Sisters building was constructed in 1909, when the sisters ran a dress and hat shop on the main floor. The Bells also managed apartments upstairs, which Bentley is planning to turn into two bed and breakfasts called the Bell Sister Flats. The project will entail replacing old plate glass and adding a new aluminum store front.

“I think we now have several restaurants downtown which add to the vibrancy down here. I think getting people downtown more often will attract more retail, more specialty shops, those kinds of things we really need to revive downtown,” Bentley said.

Several historic buildings, built in the 1890s and 1910s, were damaged in the blast of 1959, when a truck loaded with explosives caught fire and exploded downtown. To be designated a historic district, an area needs to have buildings older than 50 years, or something of significance in the area. For downtown Roseburg, the blast was quite significant, resulting in 13 deaths and $9 million in damage.

“Some of the facade improvements actually took away the flat plain look that was the result of the ’59 blast and restored them to look as if they were the old buildings they once were, with new materials,” said Victoria Hawks of Hawks & Co. Realtors, a downtown business.

One such building was 611 Cass St., the old Yogee’s building. The top floor blew off in the blast and quick renovations were made from leftover pieces in the rubble and cheap plate glass. Now, the plan is to use the grant funding to recreate the second story of the building for apartments.

“It’s going to really spiff up that corner,” Clemons said.

Hawks & Co. Realtors added a new awning to its Jackson Street building years ago. The company and the building owner each paid for one third of the cost while the facade grant took care of the rest.

“It’s a wonderful program and a lot of people have used it,” Hawks said. “It’s made quite a difference in how some of the facades look these days. I’m all for it.”

Awnings were also added to the Rose Apartments, in the old Rose Hotel building constructed in the 1920s on the corner of Stephens and Lane. The owners had to go through a historical committee to prove the renovation would help restore the building to resemble how it originally looked.

Cynthia Stevens, owner of the historic Booth Bank building on the northeast corner of Jackson and Oak streets, is currently adding new vinyl awnings to the front of Bliss Salon in place of the old brittle awnings that used to hang in front of the building.

Stevens also took advantage of the facade grant about seven years ago when she had the entire building repainted.

“It has definitely helped the aesthetics of the area,” Stevens said. “I truly believe the nicer it looks and the cleaner it is, the more appealing it is to others. You’ve got to keep it nice if you want people to come and spend money with you.”

In future grant cycles, Stevens is considering applying for a grant to work on the awnings of Party Time Rentals and possibly paint part of the building.

In each grant cycle, the city of Roseburg has $50,000 to give out.

“It gives people a reward, an additional benefit to maintaining their buildings,” Clemons said. “Since there are more rules in place if it’s in the Historic District, this helps sweeten the pot.”

For more information about how to apply for a grant, call 541-492-6750, visit www.test1.nathandemo.tk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Facade-Grant.pdf or come by the Community Development Department.