DDA gets grant to improve buildings

July 11, 2009
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For more than a year, the Downtown Development Authority has been trying to help building owners in the 100 block of South Division Avenue improve the facades of their aging structures.

Last year, the DDA failed to get a grant from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority worth $99,500, money the state agency was offering for exterior improvements to buildings located in downtown districts.

Board members were willing to match the grant amount, and eight structures in the Heartside Business District — all badly in need of the upgrades — were on the list for facade improvement.

“We were disappointed to hear that,” said DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler last September when he heard MSHDA didn’t approve the board’s request. “We’re going to see if we can make something happen.”

Last week, the DDA learned that something has happened.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has awarded the DDA a $33,800 grant that it will use to restore the facades of the buildings at 121 S. Division Ave. and 135 S. Division Ave. Both structures were on last year’s list.

The DDA will match the grant amount and the building owners will pick up 20 percent of the respective restoration costs.

“We chose the two properties that are the most eyesores on that block,” said Anne Marie Bessette, a development specialist with the DDA who wrote the MEDC grant.

Performance Directions Inc. owns 121 S. Division Ave.; the cost to improve that building’s façade is expected to run $20,033. G-B Holdings LLC owns 135 S. Division Ave.; the cost to restore that façade is $64,500.

Bessette told the Business Journal that the façade work for 121 S. Division is expected to be finished next May, and next June is the completion date for 135 S. Division.

Board members authorized Fowler to enter into a grant agreement with the MEDC last week and also approved funding for the local match.

The historic renovation of another South Division building is nearly done. The former Watson & Heald Building at 101 S. Division, a 123-year-old structure that had been vacant for decades, will soon be known as 101 South Division Lofts.

The ground floor will offer commercial space, while the upper two levels will be home to 20 subsidized rental apartments.

Brookstone Capital, a Midland-based firm, owns the building at the southwest corner of South Division Avenue and Oakes Street. Frying Construction, a division of the Wolverine Building Group, managed the construction process.

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