When Larry Seurynck began power washing the front facade of China Garden, flashbacks to 1989 came to mind for Front Street business owners, who witnessed the initial wave of renovation work 31 years ago.
Larry was there too. And so was the Downtown Development Authority.
When contractor after contractor said they were booked for the next six to 12 months, Vickie Phillipson, DDA and Chamber of Commerce program director, asked Larry to come out of retirement. Who better to work on the property, owned by Zhen & Jenny Yang, than the person that once owned and originally renovated these two storefronts and three others on Front Street.
The DDA's Facade Incentive & Architectural Design Program, created in the late-1980s, has served both the testament of time, the business community and property owners.
While many of Dowagiac's downtown buildings have been renovated, there are some, like China Garden, which are showing significant wear and tear, such as rotting window trim, peeling paint, bricks in need of tuck pointing and, in some cases, faded and worn awnings.
While the renovation of building facades is more than just spring cleaning, thanks to Mayor and Council, the DDA continues to offer financial assistance to downtown building owners who renovate their properties. Monies appropriated by Council from the City's economic development budget to fund the $10,000 annual Facade Incentive Program continue to be used to rejuvenate downtown storefronts.
Phillipson said the 2020 incentive is administered on a matching funds basis. Property owners are eligible to receive an incentive of up to $2,000 for front facade renovation. Double storefronts, like China Garden, may receive up to $4,000. The Design Review Committee will also consider a secondary side of a building, if it constitutes a major presence in the central business district.to $50-million in annual revenue or working capital from investors or grants.