Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd announce Lebanon, TN as a recipient of a Commercial Façade Improvement Grant. The grant will be administered by Historic Lebanon and will benefit the Lebanon Historic Commercial District as recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.
Commercial Façade Improvement Grants are derived from Tennessee’s federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds and are used to improve commercial buildings in downtown districts that have active revitalization programs in place through the Tennessee Main Street and Tennessee Downtowns programs. Grants can be used for exterior improvements including new awnings and signs, painting, where appropriate, windows and doors, brick repair and other upgrades.
Historic Lebanon submitted the grant application in July and will receive the maximum amount of $100,000. “Receiving this grant has been a goal of our organization for several years and will allow us to facilitate needed improvements to our Square buildings,” Kim Parks, Executive Director of Historic Lebanon explained. She continued, “I am proud of Historic Lebanon’s board of directors and the support of the community. This grant is validation of our hard work.” I also would like to thank the City of Lebanon for their continued efforts to revitalize our historic Public Square, Mayor Craighead is a strong supporter of our use of Historic Preservation for positive economic impact.
Mayor Craighead noted that the grant would be the “next step towards becoming the best Square in the Mid-State,” and thanked the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development for their confidence in Lebanon’s effort to “maximize preservation to spur economic success.”
Lebanon’s need for the commercial façade grant program addresses physical maintenance of the structures. Many of the buildings in this area have been vacant for numerous years, have windows boarded over, and if rented, see a high turn-over rate. These issues are not unique to Lebanon but do require a plan of action which this grant will enable.
‘Historic Renovations to our downtown core can help our community continue to thrive and, in turn, ensure future economic development opportunities and promote continued growth through the city of Lebanon!’ Sarah Haston, Economic Development Director stated.
The specifics of Historic Lebanon’s plan for exterior maintenance and rehabilitation include the removal of inappropriate awnings and façade materials, the restoration of windows or replacement of poor quality windows with appropriate reproductions, the use of a historical color palette on facades which are painted, the improvement of current signage to pedestrian scale signage, and the introduction of lighting to enhance unique architectural features. Historic Lebanon will notify eligible property owners of grant requirements and how to apply for grant funds. Eligible properties will submit an application to the Historic Lebanon design committee and will be evaluated both for the proposed project’s benefit to the individual building as well as the benefit to adjacent properties and the area as a whole, the current condition of the building and the urgency of needed maintenance, and those projects having the most positive impact towards achieving Historic Lebanon’s design plan. During the application process, Historic Lebanon held public meetings and more than 15 property owners indicated an interest in participating in the program.
Another anticipated benefit of the grant is to spur economic revitalization not only for properties receiving the grant but surrounding ones as well. This revitalization is a key point in Historic Lebanon’s overall downtown development plan. This development plan, titled, “Success Starts on the Square revitalization initiative” was created in 2007 and updated in 2015. The Public Square has several properties that lack a historic design aesthetic. The Commercial Façade Improvement Grant Program will allow Historic Lebanon to address key elements in their design plan. By following the Secretary of the Interiors Standards, grant monies will be used to properly maintain and rehabilitate Lebanon’s historic square buildings.
According to Kim Parks, “the overall architectural impact of the Commercial Façade Improvement Grant project will be very positive. Receiving this grant will necessitate property owners carefully researching the history of their building and creating an appropriate plan for the façade.” Proper façade maintenance and rehabilitation is especially important in maintaining listing of the Square on the National Register of Historic Places.
A well-restored Public Square creates not only a center of commercial activity, but also enhances civic pride and the quality of life for the community.
The Commercial Façade Improvement Program will be a continuation of Lebanon’s progress towards a revitalized Public Square. The benefits of this program to the community as a whole include increased property values and sales tax revenue, as well as increased heritage tourism, and more intangible qualities such as a “green ripple effect” where the revitalized Public Square is more pedestrian friendly and connected to the Music City Star mass transit system. An increase in shoppers as well as tourists creates a greater variety of businesses, the potential for more public events, concerts and festivals, and greater incentive for the community to “stay local” in their discretionary spending choices. According to the American Independent Business Alliance, “each $100 spent at local independents generated $45 of secondary local spending”.
It is the goal of Historic Lebanon for this grant to further downtown revitalization efforts by spurring property owners to address needed building improvements not only for financial incentive but out of a sense of civic pride. Other goals for the revitalization efforts include: community interest and support of Public Square gateway beautification projects and public art installations and to create residential areas in the upper stories of Square buildings and the construction of new townhouses in the area. This is especially viable considering the close proximity of the Lebanon Public Square to the Music City Star commuter rail station.
“The downtown area is the heartbeat of a city and these communities are taking steps to help their downtowns thrive,” Haslam said. “I congratulate the nine communities awarded the Commercial Façade Improvement Grants this round. They are moving their downtowns in the right direction and helping us reach our goal of making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”
“With the assistance of the CDBG Commercial Façade Improvement program, these communities will be able to improve their downtown districts and attract new business,” Boyd said. “With renovations like these, the nine communities that were awarded these grants will be able to succeed in our state which will promote future growth in each community.”
The 2016 Commercial Façade grantees are: Athens – $100,000,Bolivar – $79,250,Dyersburg – $100,000,
Lebanon – $100,000,Mountain City – $50,000,Rogersville – $100,000,Savannah – $100,000,Smithville – $100,000, and Tiptonville – $20,000 .
Seven of the nine grantees are accredited Tennessee Main Street communities, and two are Tennessee Downtowns communities. Each is required to provide a 25 percent match for the funds and administer the façade improvement programs.
This is the fourth annual round of Commercial Façade Improvement Grants. Each application was supported by the community’s senator and representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly.