When a local entrepreneur was looking for a place to invest in by becoming a downtown landlord, the recent improvements to downtown Greenwood development caught his attention.
Isaac Brewer is spending $150,000 to purchase a former salon on Main Street and will use a city grant program created last year to make exterior improvements to the building, which he intends to lease to a local business.
Brewer’s initial plan was to make some minor exterior repairs, but because of the matching grant offered by the city, he decided to make more extensive improvements, such as completely re-siding the building.
The Greenwood Redevelopment Commission set aside $500,000 for the GROW program last summer, with the intention of encouraging downtown property owners to make exterior renovations. So far, the program is receiving significant interest. Six applications have been approved and inquiries have been made for another 20 locations on Main Street and Madison Avenue, officials said.
Story continues below gallery
Brewer compared the plans for downtown Greenwood, such as Old City Park improvements, Madison Street reconstruction and development on the middle school property, to what has been done in Broad Ripple and Fountain Square in Indianapolis.
“Main Street is coming back to life,” he said.
Other properties that are or plan to make improvements include a ballroom at a key intersection and pediatric and dentist offices on Madison Avenue. Any buildings that meet all of the city’s criteria for location and types of improvements will be brought to the redevelopment commission for its consideration, Greenwood Capital Projects Manager Kevin Steinmetz said.
Projects must be exterior renovations that aren’t routine maintenance. Each grant is capped at $50,000 per property.
The commission has also approved several measures to protect the city’s investments through the GROW program and is considering some additional requirements for applicants. The commission voted unanimously a requirement that a property owner would have to pay back the grant if the property were sold or converted to a nonprofit within three years, and also approved a firm timeline for when a contract with the city must be finalized.
While the city isn’t opposed to nonprofit organizations being in downtown, the goal of this program is to increase property values and property taxes and a nonprofit organization that is exempt from property taxes doesn’t suit that purpose, commission president Brent Tilson said.
Redevelopment commission member Chuck Landon proposed extending the reimbursement to any property that sells within five years of receiving a GROW program grant.
Allowing someone to receive a city investment and then turn around and immediately profit from it by selling the property at a higher value isn’t appropriate, Landon said.
However, when a property sells, that sale price can help establish the property’s increased value, which is one of the goals of these investments, Tilson said.
The commission will make a decision on extending the reimbursement measure at its next meeting, after studying what protections other cities have in place.
The commission has approved six projects for total of $200,000 so far. Owners of another 20 properties have either expressed interest or are working to complete an application, Steinmetz said.
The interest in the program has grown faster than the city anticipated, he said.
“People are willing to invest, and I think we are getting a good diversity of properties geographically and by use,” Steinmetz said.
Brewer will receive up to $21,000 to upgrade the siding of his property at 599 E. Main St., add windows and commercial doors, remove old concrete steps on the front of the building, as well as make landscaping, lighting, paint and gutter repairs.
“When it is done it will look like a professional business building more so than a home,” Brewer said.
He’s not sure yet who his tenants will be. He has 1,600- and 600-square-foot suites that could be leased separately or combined. Brewer’s goal is to have a tenant by this summer, and he expects plenty of interest in the downtown Main Street location.
Jason West, who owns the the Grafton Peek building at the northeast corner of Main Street and Madison Avenue as well as a catering and wedding cake business at 410 E. Main St., will be getting $33,000 through two grants to make improvements to both of those properties.
“We are very excited about the direction Old Town and city of Greenwood are heading,” he said.
After purchasing the building at 410 E. Main St. in 2012, he spent about $100,000 to convert it into a catering kitchen and a wedding cakes studio.
The grant will help cover replacing all the windows and the front door, installing new signage and lighting, as well as painting to replace the current gray exterior.
A new window on the east side of the building will be used to showcase wedding cakes, he said.
At the Grafton Peek, improvements will include repairing the brick façade along Madison Avenue, replacing the metal flashing with a limestone cap on top of the building, replacing gutters, improving lighting, replacing a second story window and adding a painted sign. Work will begin later this spring, West said.
In addition to the GROW program grant, he will also be requesting city assistance for a more extensive facade project at Grafton Peek, which is a ballroom that can host up to 150 people for weddings, receptions or other special events. This project would include renovations at the ground level such as extensive windows on the first floor at the intersection, similar to Revery across the street.
How much that project will cost, and what level of assistance will be considered by the redevelopment commission isn’t known yet, as an engineer is still preparing plans, but it will likely be done outside of the GROW program, West said.
West didn’t participate in the city’s initial facade program, because he said he wasn’t comfortable with all of the requirements that were attached to that funding, such as some of the materials the city was mandating. Given the improvements being made now in downtown Greenwood, he wants to be an active part of it.
“As this blossoming of Old Town in conjunction with the development south of us comes to fruition, the city will see a lot more walking traffic through Old Town,” he said.
Greenwood GROW program
What it does: provides matching grants of up to $50,000 to make exterior renovations to downtown buildings on Main Street and Madison Avenue
Managed by: Greenwood Redevelopment Commission with property tax dollars collected in the tax-increment financing districts
Goal: encourage more downtown improvements and raise property values and tax revenue
Six applications for GROW program grants have been approved by the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission:
- 223 to 241 Main St.: (two properties): $83,000
- 622 Madison Ave.: $25,000
- 401 Camby Court: $38,000
- 599 E. Main St.: $21,000
- 410 E. Main St.: $14,000
- 280 W. Main St.: $19,000