The Centralia Downtown Association is following the lead of its neighbors to the south in starting a grant program to help businesses make improvements to the front-facing facades of their buildings.
Centralia applicants will be eligible to receive up to $2,500 of matching funds out of $10,000 made available by the CDA. Projects related to signage, doors and windows are among the possible rehabilitation efforts that could be eligible for a grant.
The CDA has considered implementing a grant program in previous years, but chose to move ahead after seeing the success of a similar effort spearheaded last year by the Chehalis Community Renaissance Team.
“We’ve had people starting to contact us,” CDA President Jan Nontell said. “I know people are interested in replacing awnings, doing some painting and some brick work. These will be facelifts that will make the whole downtown look better.”
Applications will be reviewed by the CDA through Dec. 31 of this year or until all available funds are claimed. The application packet is available at downtowncentralia.org
Grants will be given out via reimbursement after approved projects are completed.
Nontell hopes to increase the funding pool to $15,000 next year and to continue raising the amount as community interest grows.
Washington State Architectural Historian Michael Houser, who worked with the Centralia Historic Preservation Commission in 2002 and 2003 to get the historic district of downtown Centralia on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, is in favor of the initiative.
“There’s great potential downtown,” Houser said. “(There are) a variety of structures down there that celebrate the architecture.”
Only buildings within the historic district are eligible to receive matching funds.
Plans must also be submitted to the Historic Preservation Committee for review to ensure they adhere to city codes regarding alterations and repairs to structures within the district.
“Most of what we see is for signage,” said Hillary Hoke, who works for Centralia’s community development department and represents city staff on the Historic Preservation Committee. “Mostly it’s the lettering, style and color schemes that we review. Our most recent review was for the Liberty Theater sign at the Bethel Church.”
The CCRT offered the same matching grants — up to $2,500 out of $10,000 budgeted — to downtown Chehalis businesses last year.
It’s already given out $7,500 this year out of $20,000 allotted.
The M & K Town Store recently received a grant to put towards work on awning and signage. The San Juan Arms Apartments was the first business to use the program in 2017.
Annalee Tobey, Executive Director of the CCRT, has worked closely with Nontell and the CDA to help launch their program. Her program has also launched a micro-grant initiative that gives businesses up to $250 for smaller projects.
“It’s been a very encouraging process for us,” Tobey said. “It’s been cool to see the willingness of the business owners to invest as well.”
Nontell hopes that as the initiative takes hold in Centralia, businesses and building owners outside of the historic district will be able to access funds either through the CDA or a similar organization.