The cost of a project to redo the façades of downtown Greenwood buildings has gone up again.
Now, city tax dollars will be paying for about $1.1 million of the nearly $1.7 million project to makeover private property in an area the city wants to become a busy marketplace with shopping, dining and attractions.
Contractors realized more money was needed to help cover the costs of multiple expenses that were higher than expected, including scaffolding, traffic management and windows and doors needed for the updated buildings, said Kevin Steinmetz, a project assistant in the mayor’s office.
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The city first began discussing the project more than two years ago and applied for a $400,000 grant from the state. The goal was to fix up the fronts of buildings in the downtown area, mainly along Main Street and Madison Avenue, as part of a plan to revitalize downtown Greenwood.
Initially, the project was estimated to cost about $700,000, with money coming from the city, the state grant and a match from property owners.
Early last year, the cost increased to $1.2 million, and the plan was to have the city pay $600,000, and property owners, including downtown shops, offices and salons, would chip in about $200,000, with a 20 percent match from each.
Since then, the portion paid with tax dollars has increased 83 percent. Owners of the downtown properties are paying about the same amount, which is about 11 percent of the total project, which is still in line with what property owners have paid when similar projects were done in other communities, Steinmetz said.
One big cause of the increase is the age of the buildings — many that are more than 100 years old — and that issues are being found that contractors couldn’t have predicted, Steinmetz said.
One city official said the project should be scaled back and the city’s portion of the cost has gotten too high.
“At some point, you have to draw the line on costs, and I draw it here,” said Mike Campbell, a city council member who is also on the redevelopment commission.
Other members of the redevelopment commission, which was asked for another $305,000 in funding, said the project would be killed or significantly scaled back if the added money was not approved.
“If we walk away from this sour bill today, we walk away from some really great work,” said Don Cummings, a member of the redevelopment commission.
The increase was due to a big miss on the estimates, board member Mike Tapp said.
“This is hard to accept. It adds a degree of sourness to the project,” Tapp said.
Two years ago, the city hired a consultant and paid them more than $150,000 to come up with estimates for what it would cost to improve each building. From those estimates, the cost of the project for about 30 buildings nearly doubled, and some property owners dropped out of the project. Currently, 22 buildings are preparing for work to begin as soon as next month.
If the added money from the redevelopment commission was not approved, the city could lose a state grant that is helping pay for the project, Tapp said.
Members of the city board approved the additional $305,000 by a vote of 4-1, with Campbell voting no. The money from the city is coming from Greenwood’s tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts, which set aside money from new development in certain areas for infrastructure and other economic development projects.
The increased amount now means the city is paying for about 65 percent of the total project costs.
With the age of the buildings and the size of the project, some board members said they weren’t surprised the cost had gone up.
The increase is considered typical when projects are done in the private sector, said Bryan Harris, a member of the redevelopment commission.
“You try your best to estimate, and sometimes you come in high, and sometimes you come in low,” Harris said.
“It is part of the process, it’s a part of what we have to go through.”
Board member Brent Tilson said even in his own project to build a new building for his Greenwood-based human resources company, the cost of steel came in about $150,000 higher than expected.
If earlier bids had come in with the added $300,000 included, Tilson expects the city board would have still approved the project. The added money is worth it, he said.
“It is still a reasonable amount, given what we are dealing with,” Tilson said.
If more money was needed in the future, then officials could consider scaling back the project and look at alternatives that could help cut costs, Steinmetz said.
The project should be scaled back now, Campbell said.
“We should not just keep putting money into it,” he said.
Campbell also raised concerns about future pieces of the project to improve downtown, such as street work and infrastructure projects, and how those would be paid for in the future.
Here is a look at how the cost of a project to update downtown Greenwood facades has changed:
Initial estimate: $695,000
January 2015 estimate: $942,000
New estimate: $1.4 million