Working on Main Street
The Main Street Project isn’t going anywhere soon after securing five new projects this year.
The longtime business improvement project is approaching its ninth year of existence and has helped 42 businesses thus far, with more businesses yet to come.
“It’s a really good time for us to continue and try to compliment the other projects,” said executive director Sarah Douty.
Douty signed on to the Main Street Project in 2005 after a career as a broadcast journalist. Since then, she has spearheaded efforts to restore business storefronts throughout the downtown area, as well as help businesses like the Yoga Studio of Austin settle into the city with Main Street Project’s rent reimbursement program.
It’s a program that has earned recognition for the city of Austin, as the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs recognized Austin for its Main Street Project efforts with a 2012 Local Government Innovation award.
After a series of high-profile initial projects, such as the remodel of the old building on the corner of N. Main Street and Fourth Avenue, the Main Street Project has consistently done several projects a year. Not every project is high profile, however, as the Main Street Project has completed several smaller projects last year that weren’t as noticeable as the construction currently taking place.
The Austin Port Authority approved five projects during a meeting last month, including three at 330, 326 and 324 N. Main St. for Raymond James Financial, accounting firm Hill, Larson, Walth & Benda and Salon Azteca.
The Main Street Project will contribute about $250,000 in total to the projects, and work has already begun this week.
“This is something we’ve been working on for a very long time,” Main Street Project President Craig Byram said during the meeting. “Lots and lots of hours have gone into bringing people to the table and getting them interested.”
Byram said the Main Street Project had hoped to improve that particular building ever since it was created in 2005, to bring that building back to its former historic look.
Raymond James will get a new awning over its door, along with new screen and support walls. The building will also remove and replace the existing concrete slab and stoop, and will infill existing stairs and cover with a concrete slab. Existing door and window openings around the Raymond James entrance will also be filled in. That project will cost about $143,000, with Main Street contributing about $105,000.
On the other sides of the building, the giant white metal facade wrapped around the building’s second floor will be removed, and other windows on the second floor will either be restored or removed. The curved brick canopy on the building’s north side will be removed, but brick planters will remain.
Hill, Larson, Walth & Benda’s project will cost about $105,600, with Main Street contributing about $79,000.
Salon Azteca’s project will cost about $85,600, with Main Street contributing about $64,000. All of those projects will start next Monday.
The Austin VFW and Rydjor Bike are also making improvements thanks to the Main Street Project.
The VFW will add a new facade and new front entrance to the north, along with new windows and new lighting. A new handicapped-accessible entrance would be built on the east side, along with new siding on the east and south sides of the building. There would be minor brick work on the west side.
The project is expected to cost about $105,000 in total, with the Main Street Project contributing about $79,000.
The Main Street Project will contribute up to $2,500 to replace the Rydjor Bike Shop sign to create a more classic look for the bicycle shop business. In addition, Rydjor officials hope to install some sort of bicycle-related artwork above the new sign. Rydjor Bike has also petitioned the city of Austin to allow bike racks near the business.
Projecting the future
This summer’s high profile projects are only part of the Main Street Project’s overall duties, according to Douty. Douty also volunteers as co-chair of Vision 2020’s Downtown Destination Committee, which seeks to revitalize the downtown area in Austin.
“We’re working hand-in-hand to support Vision 2020,” Douty said.
That could mean the Main Street Project can sign up even more businesses for projects in the future. Douty said the project is still identifying business storefronts that qualify for improvements under the Main Street Project.
Mayor Tom Stiehm said the project has greatly benefited the city. He hopes Main Street Project will continue to improve the downtown area over the next few years.
“We’re determined to keep our downtown vital and make it even better than it is now,” he said.
Main Street Project funding comes from the Austin Housing and Redevelopment Authority, as well as The Hormel Foundation. The two entities usually review Main Street Project needs each year and allot money accordingingly, according to Douty. With more storefronts to complete, the Main Street Project could be around for years to come.