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Planners expand facade funding

By JOSH COTTON

jcotton@timesobserver.com

The City of Warren Planning Commission has recommended to the Redevelopment Authority expanding the area for a facade grant program to loop in the riverfront at the base of Liberty St.

The Redevelopment Authority agreed last month to add more funds to the initiative and Vince DeJoy, the city’s director of zoning, codes and economic development, told the commission that there has been a request to “expand the footprint to include the businesses along Clark St. They are very interested in doing some upgrades.”

“That makes a tremendous amount of sense,” Commission chair Don Nelson said.

Councilman and mayoral candidate Phil Gilbert told the commission that he reviewed the map and saw the “Clark St. area was cut out.”

He said he assumes that was because that area was “kind of dead” when the program was started and asked city staff to review adding that area to “get those businesses some help down there.”

Gilbert said he’d like to see signage with lights to brighten up the area.

“(It) would bring more attention down there,” he said.

While that change was approved, a pitch from Nelson to include roof work as part of the program received a frostier reception.

He noted that roof repairs as part of the facade project are included but asked whether permitting roof repairs would present any “real downside.”

Executive Secretary Teena Leary said that roof repairs were not initially included because the commission felt roof work was routine maintenance.

Nelson said he brought it up because, using the former Brick House as his example, the structure “went downhill as soon as that roof went.”

“The monies may not go as far,” Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz, noting that a roof replacement could push to $30,000 or $40,000.

Just $50,000 is available in $5,000 blocks, per what the RDA approved.

TRESTLE TO TRESTLE UPDATE

DeJoy said the retail committee of the downtown planning group met last night. The results of a survey put out by the Warren County Chamber of Business & Industry were discussed.

DeJoy said “curiously, the number one new business requested was a medical cannabis dispensary in that area.”

He said discussion included how to guide people to downtown businesses and that the group is working to developing some branding for the downtown as well as a means of disseminating information.

Nelson said this might be the time to reach out to the community for ideas and DeJoy said the concept of a public contest for a tagline was discussed.

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