Warsaw is looking to expand its downtown facade grant program by including alleyways as areas for potential for development.
Mark Dobson of the Warsaw/Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce presented the plan to the Warsaw Common Council this week noting that the chamber will seek an additional $10,000 – to provide a total of $35,000 in the facade grant program – for 2014. The idea behind including alleyways into the program is to better utilize downtown space by opening more “store fronts,” improve alleyways and provide downtown businesses with more opportunities.
Currently, only Noblesville and Columbus provide similar programs in Indiana. In some cases, by including the alleyways into the facade program, some alleys may ultimately have to be closed to accommodate the business plans. “Most likely we would potentially phase it in for nights and weekends,” said Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer. “Not all will qualify and the city has the final say” in what, if any alleyways are closed.
According to Dobson, alleyways that would qualify for the program and that would be utilized by downtown businesses would likely be re-classified as walkways. The most obvious use for alleyway utilization is for restaurants to offer outdoor dining areas. In Noblesville, alleyways have been used as decorative walkways and Columbus started an annual Arts in the Alley event.
If adopted under the facade grant program, businesses that could apply must be located within the historic courthouse district, must own the building and must be a member of the Warsaw Community Development Corporation, among other qualifications. Grants are currently available to improve business facades by such things as masonry repair, the addition of signage or awnings, new paint and window repairs.
Dobson said there are currently four grant applications on the table for the next round in 2014. “If all four come through, we would be overspent” at the $25,000 limit, he said. If the city approves the additional $10,000 allocation to add the alleyway program in the grant process, Dobson said he still believes the full amount will be used.
Warsaw Common Council made no vote on the proposal. The $35,000 request from the WCDC for the facade and alleyway grant program will be considered with the rest of the city department budgets in future meetings. The budget must be approved by November.