The Ottumwa Courier

August 26, 2013

State grant will aid Le Mars downtown overhaul

MAGDALENE LANDEGENT
Le Mars Daily Sentinel

---- — LEMARS, Iowa (AP) — In the next few years, Le Mars' downtown will see $1 million worth of transformation.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority recently awarded Le Mars a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for downtown revitalization.

The Le Mars Daily Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/13TBVdS ) plans call for the city of Le Mars to match that with $250,000, with the final $250,000 to be invested by downtown building owners participating in the project.

City Administrator Scott Langel said this CDBG is "huge" for Le Mars.

"It means the ability to condense 20 years of facade programming into two years — and to get it done now instead of later at increased costs," he said. "Le Mars is very fortunate."

Next, formal agreements must be signed, and the city will begin looking to hire an architect and procure a construction company.

But the delay won't be too long. Le Mars has to finish the CDBG revitalization project in two to three years.

"Throughout town you'll see change happening," Le Mars Main Street Manager Mary Reynolds said.

The revitalization will include a range of exterior work on downtown buildings.

"We're looking forward to uncovering many of the second floor windows and restoring the woodwork around them if possible," Reynolds said. "You aren't going to see boarded up windows downtown any more. That's the biggest component."

Buildings including Budget Automotive on Plymouth Street and Perkins Office Solutions on Central Avenue are eligible for transformation work, Reynolds said.

Also with this grant, aluminum fronts may be removed from buildings such as Hugo's on Central Avenue, she added.

Tuckpointing can be done throughout town with the grant dollars.

"People will notice a change when it's all done, because they're going to see a different look with the brickwork," Reynolds said

Plans include revitalization of the brick work above Bad Habit Boutique and Sugar-N-Spice on Plymouth Street, she noted.

The revitalization area roughly consists of the commercial district from Second Avenue West to First Avenue East, from First Street South to Second Street North.

"It's a little like an odd-shaped plus sign," Reynolds said.

Applying for the CDBG grant was an extensive process, she said.

The idea was developed in meetings of the city, Le Mars Historic Preservation Commission, Le Mars Main Street and Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce.

"We had to assess each building one-on-one, top to bottom, of what needed to be done to bring it back to close to the way it was when it was initially built," Reynolds said.

Then Langel had to ascertain the cost to work on each building.

Reynolds talked with local building owners about the possible projects and asked if they were interested in participating.

The Siouxland Interstate Metropolitan Planning Council (SIMPCO) assembled the final grant application.

The local planners asked for a CDBG of $500,000, the full amount possible, and were awarded that amount.

Today (Tuesday), the Le Mars City Council will review the agreement to approve the CDBG for Le Mars.

Before any work begins, building owners will have to be re-contacted to move forward with the project.

"The community is going to see a lot of changes in two years — $1 million worth of changes in two years," Reynolds said.

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Information from: Daily Sentinel, http://www.lemarssentinel.com