EDB, Main Street to reboot Façade Improvement Program
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The city’s Economic Development Board (EDB) and Main Street Marshfield will reignite the Façade Improvement Program, which from 2009-2014 saw over $2 million invested in restoring the look of downtown Marshfield. Forty-four projects focused on beautifying the front façades of downtown businesses were completed in that period of time.
In addition to front facades, the program for 2016 will permit improvements to back alley façades of businesses. Properties eligible for grant funds fall in tax incremental finance district four, which is Marshfield’s core downtown area.
The EDB will contribute $65,000 to the project in 2016, and Main Street Marshfield will put up $10,000. The businesses must match the money offered by the EDB and Main Street Marshfield and complete their projects prior to receiving grant funding. From 2009-2014 the city and Main Street Marshfield contributed nearly $450,000 to the project with business owners often matching and exceeding that dollar amount, using the opportunity to improve more than just the façade of their building, said Director of Planning and Economic Development Jason Angell.
Including back alley façades in this version of the grant program is a crucial step in making downtown businesses more visible from all sides, said Main Street Marshfield Executive Director Angie Eloranta.
“With the inclusion of the back alley façades, we hope to enliven the back entrances of the buildings, thus making them more functional and visible. Inviting back alley façades are essential to the awareness and utilization of the back parking lots,” said Eloranta.
Angell said there is interest in the program from the business community.
“There’s definitely a couple (of businesses) that are interested that we’ve spoken to already. There was a number that had approached us late last year asking if the program was still available,” Angell said.
In the 2009-2014 version of the program, the city used a mechanism called tax incremental financing (TIF) to fund the grants. In TIF the city borrows against anticipated new tax revenues based on what it believes will be elevated property values realized through improvements to an area, in this case the downtown. Quoting from the city’s website, “TIF funds originate from the tax money generated from an improvement or development greater than the tax generated by the site before the improvement or development.”
TIF will not be used for the 2016 improvements as that money is earmarked for other projects, Angell said. Rather, the money will come from the EDB and Main Street’s general budgets. Angell said the plan is to make the program available for just 2016 at this point.
The program, Angell said, does more than just improve the aesthetic appeal of the downtown.
“It’s proven over the years that it has a definite impact on the downtown,” Angell said. “Those properties that have participated in this, we have seen that their values have increased.”
He added that the state of the downtown is one of the city’s biggest priorities and is the top priority for the EDB.
“Ten years from now I hope that our downtown is more pedestrian friendly and is a destination where not only our residents but people surrounding Marshfield want to come to spend time and with them they bring their checkbook,” Angell said.
More information on the Façade Improvement Program is available at mainstreetmarshfield.com or by calling the Main Street Marshfield office at 715-387-3299 or Jason Angell at 715-486-2074.