Archive for Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Applications now available for downtown improvements

July 19, 2000

Now that downtown design guidelines are complete, business owners can begin applying for financial help to improve their storefronts.

"The city applied for the revolving fund with the downtown revitalization grant," said Chris Donnelly, executive vice president for First State Bank and Trust.

The program is intended to try to make downtown more attractive.

"Our downtown is what it is," Donnelly said. "There is no room for big businesses."

Applications are now available at city hall. A couple of businesses have already picked up applications.

The application process is fairly simple, Donnelly said.

Interested business owners should contact city planner Linda Zacher, who can provide an overview of the program and answer questions about the design guidelines, which were prepared by Historical Preservation Services, Kansas City, Mo. An architect will also be available for consultation on applying the guidelines. Zacher, the architect and the applicant will work together in designing and developing project plans.

An instructional sheet, cost estimate sheet, proposed work schedule and the loan application are part of the application packet.

"It's simple," Donnelly said. "One individual can apply for storefront repairs. At this point, there is no limitation up to the grant."

The revolving loan fund totals $120,000. A five-member committee will determine the amount each individual can borrow.

Upon approval, Zacher will coordinate the closing, funding and servicing of the loan.

Matt Bichelmeyer, owner of Bichelmeyer's Steakhouse, plans to apply for money from the loan fund to reimburse him for money spent renovating the front of his grocery store into a restaurant.

"I am going to use it if I can get the big application filled out," Bichelmeyer said.

He wants to put in new windows around the top of the building like it was in its former days. He also wants to use the money to help pay for the awning.

"I love it (the revolving fund)," Bichelmeyer said. "The fact of the matter is you can use it, pay it back and use it again at a 0 percent finance rate. It sounds too good to be true. I want to get as much of it as I can."

He said the process isn't the big part of the application. It is the legwork on getting bid sheets.

"It is definitely worthwhile," Bichelmeyer said.

Other downtown businesses also are interested in borrowing from the fund.

Both Bichelmeyer and Jack Cronemeyer have picked up applications, Zacher said. Cronemeyer would use the money to make the old antique store look like it used to. Ray and Sandy Bichelmeyer recently purchased the old Mirror office and are looking to use some of the fund.

"The rest of those interested may be waiting until things settle down a bit before sticking their necks in it," Zacher said.

At this point, an interest rate has not been set, but the former city administrator was debating between no interest and 2 percent interest, Donnelly said.

For now, Donnelly said, the city is eager to get the money on the street, so to speak.

"You cannot hardly beat free or cheaply borrowed money," Donnelly said.

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