Modern storefronts with restored or replaced brick and new and larger windows now line much of downtown Greenwood as part of a $1.7 million project to improve the look of the area and make it more inviting to visitors.
The work, which began last spring, was expected to be complete by December but still is ongoing. Some of the business owners said they were happy with the updated looks of their properties, but expressed frustration about how long the project has taken and raised concern over some of the unfinished details.
Of the 21 buildings in the project, 15 have reached the review stage, where work is nearly finished and city officials and architects are reviewing the buildings, another three are nearing that point, while significant work remains on the last three. Work may go into February, project manager John Shell said.
Work on the buildings was not finished by the original expected timeline in December due to age of the buildings and the additional work that had to be done, Shell said.
Story continues below gallery
The cost of construction work will come in at just under $1.5 million. The contract called for nearly $1.4 million of work, but also included nearly $100,000 in contingency funds, which ended up being used as well. The Greenwood Redevelopment Commission previously spent $200,000 with two consultants to create plans for the work, bringing the total cost of the project to about $1.7 million. The initial bill for the construction came in at $770,000, but increased several times to $1.5 million. City officials and consultants cited the age of the buildings and unexpected issues that arose from them as the reason for the increases.
The city portion of the bill, paid out of tax increment financing, or TIF, districts is $1.1 million. A $400,000 state grant and $186,000 from the businesses covered the remainder of the project.
One of the biggest challenges businesses faced during construction was letting people know they were open, owners said. The city put up banners saying that downtown buildings were open, along with the businesses, but in some cases business owners say that simply wasn’t enough.
Les Jarrett, the owner of A-Trains/Railway Productions said that when the work was ongoing, he received calls from people offering their condolences for the building having had a fire and questions about when the model train retailer would be open again.
“It was devastating to be boarded up at Christmas time,” he said. “Even though signs are out, people tend not to read them.”
Jarrett likes the look of the clean brick and larger windows, but said he is still waiting for workers to paint the interior and re-install lights.
“I think it has gone OK, just that it took a long time,” he said.
Since work finished at Cottage on Main and a new awning was put up several weeks ago, the number of people stopping inside the used furniture store has quadrupled, manager Mike Twarogal said.
“We have mixed feelings,” he said. “Completion is really nice, but we just started our business. Going through construction without a name has been really difficult.”
The construction workers were helpful throughout the process, and Twarogal is waiting to see what the future now holds for the business.
“We’re still in the hoping stage.” he said. “We are hoping it works.”
The city made every effort it could to let people know that the downtown was open for business, Shell said. Banners were hung all around downtown with the message that businesses were still open.
“I don’t know how to publicize it any better than we did,” he said.
When work began at 332 W. Main Street in June, then the home of Nosnhoj Services, the expectation was that the work would take about six weeks, Sarah Johnson said.
Now, although the work on the building is in the final stage, some issues, such as the top cap that lines the top edge of the building being metal instead of stone, still remain. She is waiting for the city and the contractor to fix those issues. The Johnsons moved their business to another location, but still use the downtown property as a location for their car building hobby.
Shell said the city would be working with property owners to make sure those problems such as the ones the Johnsons are experiencing are resolved.
Restore Old Town Greenwood, a nonprofit that had advocated for the facade project, is glad to see the work nearing completion.
“We hope it is just the beginning of things to come,” said the group’s president, Jill Griffith.