City revisits Old Town facade program to beautify building backsides

The city intends to add murals. awnings or signs to Main Street building rear facades. (Photo by Christina Ulsh)

Old Town has received shiny, new attributes over the past decade, including a facelift on Main Street buildings. The city is now looking to add color and renovations to the rear sides of the buildings.

With the completion of Wayne Ferguson Plaza and the development of South Village, the exposure of Old Town’s rear exteriors has increased. To further the aesthetics of Old Town, the city is offering building owners a rear façade program to beautify the backs of buildings between Charles and Mill on Main Street.

“Right now the backs of all these buildings,” architect Bill Peck said at a presentation Monday, July 25 before city council. “They’ve turned their back to it.”

For some buildings, this means opening up windows that have been boarded up. For others it means adding a mural, awnings or signs. According to renderings provided by the architect, Elke’s Beer Haus could end up with a patio facing the plaza.

City Manager Donna Barron said the project would be funded through the same façade program used to renovate the front of the Old Town buildings.

Director of Economic Development and Planning Nika Reinecke said 23 projects have been completed since the inception of the façade program in 2003. The city allocated $400,000 in funding for the projects.

“[The rear façade program] does require additional funding if you want to go in that direction,” Reinecke told city council.

Currently, the façade program has approximately $80,000 in funding. The city will cover the costs of the design, while the building owners will cover the costs of construction. A cost reimbursement grant program will be set in place for those who finish renovations and payment within a two-year window. Actual reimbursement will be determined on a case-by-case basis, according to the agenda.

Council Member Neil Ferguson said if owners don’t foresee a return on investment, it’s their decision.

Bill Peck shows city council facade design renderings. (Photo by Steve Southwell)
Bill Peck shows city council facade design renderings. (Photo by Steve Southwell)

“The south side’s the more forgotten but they’re both becoming equally important. The big question is the price tag,” Ferguson said. Six or seven owners are already moving to work on the buildings, Peck said. Participation and communication on the part of the building owners vary. Some aren’t as talkative as others and vice versa, Peck said.

“If a building owner wants to do nothing, it won’t have to,” Barron said.

The city will be revising the original incentive plan for the front façade projects to work for the rear façade program. It will also reassess the budget, Barron said.