Face Lift

What's true of people is true of downtowns. A favorable first impression can make all the difference.

That's why Nampa, Idaho decided in 2006 to use some of its HUD Community Development Block funds to restore the original facades of historic downtown buildings. The program covers up to 50 percent of replacing the facade, anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000. The property owner picks up the rest of the cost which, notes the City, often is �significantly more� than half the project's cost.

It's brick-and-mortar work at its most basic. Like many American cities, during the 1950's and 1960's brick work was considered old-fashioned and buildings were covered in stucco or metal siding.

But now brick is back. Visit the retail space at 120 13th Avenue South in downtown. For years, it was just a place to store retail fixtures. But now its fake front has been torn away and the underlying brick work restored. It's now home to The Urban Shed, a high-end furniture consignment store. Or head to the popular Hong Kong Restaurant at 12th Avenue and Second Street. For years it's been an architectural hodge-podge with different facades and signage each of its three adjoining buildings. The siding's been torn down, the signage replaced and windows and brickwork exposed to the light of day.

[Photo 1: Fa�ade work at the Bank of Nampa]

What's happened on the outside of Nampa's historic building has also brought changes inside. On the outside of The Masonic Temple, the City's program has restored the grand staircase to the main entrance and made another entrance handicap accessible. Inside, the owner has transformed the interior, opening a restaurant, an event space and creating a suite of professional offices on the second floor.

The program has brought �downtown back to life,� Preservation Idaho told The Idaho Press Tribune, and, the City reports, it's helping businesses "generate more customers.� That's been true for The Honker Caf� whose owner, Ron LeBaron, says that even in the middle of an economic downturn and with only half the normal seating available, business is better this year than last.

Others are taking notice. The program won a City Achievement Award at the Association of Idaho Cities conference. More recently, Preservation Idaho/ Idaho Historic Preservation Council conferred one of its prestigious "orchids" on the City's program in recognition of "individuals and organizations that have made a positive contribution to historic preservation."

HUD's CDBG funds, said Preservation Idaho board president Dan Everharrt, "is something I think other small communities and towns should take advantage of. Nampa has done a good job using it not only to revitalize their downtown, but at the same time to bring about a renovation of some of these historic buildings.�

All in all, he adds, �it's pretty amazing that people have put the time and money into these properties that otherwise would be neglected.� Amazing? Sure. But good, common sense? Absolutely.

Content Archived: August 15, 2011