FORT WAYNE – Mayor Tom Henry announced the winners of this year’s Commercial Facade Grants on Thursday, drawing huge cheers from a boisterous crowd shivering in what had once been the lavish modern lobby of the Clyde Theater.
The grant program, started by Henry in 2008, helps business owners make improvements to the exterior of their properties, fixing up amenities such as lighting, signage, awnings, parking and fencing.
These dollars help transform some of the community’s most important corridors, Henry said.
This year’s 10 recipients will receive a combined $202,691 in grants, but officials said that – more importantly – the grants are spurring more investments. The latest grant recipients have pledged to invest nearly $850,000 in improvements.
Clyde Theater owner Rick Kinney, for example, will match the $40,000 Quimby Village/Clyde Theater revitalization project’s grant with about $150,000 in improvements. Kinney, of Even Keel Event Productions, plans to turn the long-abandoned theater into a multifunctional performing arts center, art gallery and recording studio.
There will also be retail and office space available, and even space for a restaurant. The theater was once one of the nicest in town, and Quimby Village, in the 1800 block of Bluffton Road, was once thriving.
The facade grant will pay for replacing windows, doors and soffits, updating exterior lighting, removing graffiti, replacing sidewalks at the front and east side of the building and repairing the concrete exterior. Last year, the city awarded Kinney a brownfield grant to investigate and remediate all asbestos and lead paint on the property.
This project is bigger than me, Kinney said. It’s for everyone.
Indeed, numerous officials at Thursday’s announcement said the program is not about the individual grants to businesses but their effect on the surrounding area. Redevelopment Commission Director Greg Leatherman said the $900,000 awarded since the grant program began has resulted in $2.6 million in private investments.
It’s gone from just a project here and there to revitalizing whole corridors, Leatherman said. It’s a program that’s improving whole areas of Fort Wayne.
City Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, whose district includes the Clyde, called the grants a great public-private partnership.
We’re going to transform the face of the city of Fort Wayne one block at a time, one shopping center at a time, one neighborhood at a time, Paddock said as the crowd yelled and applauded. This has a ripple effect.