'Making downtown better one building at a time': Center City facade grants have lasting effects on downtown businesses

'Making downtown better one building at a time': Center City facade grants have lasting effects on downtown businesses
Updated: Jul. 9, 2018 at 9:18 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Historic downtown buildings are seeing modern face-lifts, with one Center City project at the heart of the changes.

"Every year we've been able to do three or four projects a year and we say we're making downtown better one building at a time," said Beth Duke, executive director of Center City.

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Partnering with the City of Amarillo, Center City works with businesses every year to provide up to $20,000 per project in façade changes like streetscapes, signage and outside building work.

The grants work through a 2-to-1 match, meaning the building investor has to put in at least twice the amount they hope to get from the grant. For example, if a business or building accepted into the project puts $10,000 into façade renovations, the Center City grant would be for $5,000.

"It helps a business do a little more than they could afford to do on their own," said Duke. "By matching it, and we know the impact goes far beyond the dollars we are able to put in."

The Center City program is also a reimbursement program, meaning that those doing the work will not get the money until after the project is complete, helping save taxpayer dollars from projects that may go unfinished.

For the Lofts on 10th, the façades grant helped what would normally be a costly venture.

"The matching facade grant has really helped us complete the project, restore the building and provide some of the character you would expect to see in a building like this," said Austin Sharp with the Mays Group, which oversees the Lofts.

Sharp says business has picked up for the commercial tenants since the renovations and that continued programs could help bring in even more downtown investors.

"Once that train starts rolling, you're going to see additional investors, maybe from out of town or local come in and take part in these programs and before long, I think you're going to see this feel of downtown really start to materialize," said Sharp.

As for other downtown businesses, some of the façade grants are helping to shine a new - and old - light on Polk Street.

"One of the fun things we've been able to do is bring back the neon to Polk Street," said Duke. "Historically, Polk Street was a very neon boulevard and all of the businesses had neon signs."

Duke says an old report stated the city was the "best lit main street west of the Mississippi" but that title has since gone to Las Vegas and Reno.

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