9 city businesses receive facade grants

April 24, 2019 GMT

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry on Tuesday announced nine businesses and nonprofit organizations receiving this year’s grants aimed at improving commercial facades.

And, if ever there were a candidate needing a spruced-up exterior, it just might be the building where Henry’s news conference took place.

Windrose Urban Farm occupies a one-story, light blue metal building whose distinguishing features are a garage door and a painted-over sign reading “Airgas.”

Inside, however, is a plastic-sheeted greenhouse of sorts, where numerous shelves of gourmet mushrooms are growing on compressed sawdust logs, eventually to be supplied to area restaurants and sold at farmers markets downtown.

Windrose is a nonprofit organization that hires people with employment barriers such as intellectual or physical disabilities. The group plans to use a nearly $15,000 grant to have a bright mural painted on its exterior along the 1300 block of Lafayette Street, said Stacey Smith, a founder of the organization.

Grant money also will go to fixing a drainage problem in the parking lot, replacing a window and door and getting a sign, she said.

“I am so grateful the city has this program,” Smith said. “If we had to fund all that as a nonprofit, we probably would never do it.”

The mayor said a little more than 450,000 in private money. Grants are awarded to entities willing to match at least dollar-for-dollar, he said.

Georgina Jordan, who plans to open Cog & Pearl, a gift boutique, in a revitalized house at 1420 Wells St., said that business’s grant “means a lot.”

“The outside was not going to be as beautiful as it’s going to be,” she said. “Money is a big issue.” 

Jordan said she was downsized from Lincoln National after 26 years about a year ago. She plans to carry metal yard art and birdhouses made by her husband, Keith.

She hopes to market to people attracted to riverfront events as well as patrons of Wells Street’s existing restaurants : while investing in new siding, windows and doors plus awnings and a redesigned porch.

The news conference also showcased some of Fort Wayne’s newer businesses. Antonuccio’s Italian Market and Wine Cellar is rehabilitating a vacant and historic building at 4009-4011 S. Wayne St. into a commercial space. Plans are to repair stone and concrete and install new storefront-style windows and a new door.

Other recipients: Broadway Aquatics, 2426 Broadway; Clinton Corner, 3506-3510 N. Clinton St.; Fort Wayne Outfitters, 1004 Cass St.; Turnstone, 3320 N. Clinton St.; Wells Center, 3674-3678 Wells St.; and Wells Street Commercial, 1736 Wells St.

The facade grant program has awarded nearly 97 projects since 2008. The dollar value is 5.2 million, said Lindsey Maksim, grants administrator.

“When we first introduced this program in 2008, none of us imagined the transformation of our community it started. ... We weren’t sure it would be as sustainable as it has become,” Henry said. 

“This really has become a phenomenal statement in our community and our belief in small businesses.”

Or, in 3-year-old Windrose’s case, a small nonprofit.

“Probably a thousand people drive by it every day and never even notice it,” Smith said of the building, “because it’s so nondescript.”