Grant program to help downtown business exteriors

By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
cstephenson@dcherald.com

JASPER — Local downtown businesses are going to have an opportunity to revamp their looks with help from the city.

The city introduced a facade grant program through Heart of Jasper, a local nonprofit aiming to improve the downtown look and experience. The group, which was formed last year through national organization Main Street America, will provide up to $10,000 in matching grants for each business for a total of $50,000. These improvements will tie into the city’s revitalization project, Heart of Jasper Director Kate Schwenk said.

“This is something the city wanted to do but didn’t really have the person to oversee it,” she said. “So it was easy to put it under Heart of Jasper and get it done that way. Revitalizing the whole downtown is a huge piece of Jasper that we wouldn’t do alone as a nonprofit, but to do that through the city is going to be great.”

Grant applications opened Feb. 8 and will remain open until March 18. Heart of Jasper will then have a subcommittee review the applications and announce the winners March 26. The application and a set of guidelines are available at HeartOfJasper.org or can be found at City Hall or the Chamber of Commerce.

The projects that will be funded by the grants must be able to be completed within nine months and cannot already be in progress.

Schwenk and Maureen Braun, president of the Heart of Jasper Board of Directors, gave a presentation with an overview of the grant program at the February Jasper City Council meeting. One council member asked if all the downtown buildings are going to look the same because they are all following the same guidelines, Schwenk said.

“The answer is no,” she said. “It’s more of a recommendation on how to preserve the historic looks of the building. So paint colors can look different, for example, and it’s not going to change the style or the look of the buildings, necessarily.”

The nonprofit hopes to continue the grant program for years to come, Schwenk said.

Additionally, Heart of Jasper is planning other projects for the remainder of the year, she said. Right now, the organization is working on hiring local artists to create banners that will outline the Heart of Jasper district, which includes the Downtown Square, the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center and the Jasper River Centre and St. Joseph Catholic Church.

The group is also communicating with artists to create crosswalks that will connect the cultural center to the downtown area. Schwenk said this project will hopefully be done in the summer.

“It would be like a little art trail that would attract people if they’re visiting the Cultural Center to downtown or vice versa,” she said.

The group has also planned three fundraisers for later in the year. Schwenk, who started her role as director last November, said the organization is a lot more active as of 2021 than it was when she first started, in her experience.

Heart of Jasper aims to focus on bringing in new businesses and filling vacant buildings and bringing more arts, entertainment and dining to bring life to the downtown area, Schwenk said.

Any additional questions about the facade grant program or Heart of Jasper in general can be directed to Schwenk at info@heartofjasper.org.




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