Timing, as they say, is everything. And the timing couldn't be better for the building facades in downtown Greencastle.
First the City of Greencastle received a federal grant to identify and analyze historic facades in the downtown area. And no sooner had the city hired the Indianapolis architecture firm Brenner Design to survey the area and make recommendations than Greencastle was named a Stellar Community by the State of Indiana.
Among the elements contained within the city's three-year $19,031,297 Stellar Grant is approximately $1.5 million from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) to help Greencastle execute the facade improvement plan.
Tuesday night the City Council passed a resolution approving the Greencastle Historic Downtown Facade Improvement Plan, as presented by Brent Mather of Brenner Design. That study was funded by a federal Community Development Block Grant and a $5,180 matching contribution from the Greencastle Development Commis-sion.
"We have not gone further than the planning grant at this point," Mayor Sue Murray noted, "but we are really fortunate that we already know we have some money allocated."
It is also the perfect point in the process to begin the project in earnest, she said.
Mather, meanwhile, indicated that individual facades should become eligible for funds later this year.
Property owners, who will be asked to put in a minimum of 10 percent match, also seem excited by the possibilities.
In fact, Mather stressed that he has encountered a "wonderful reception" from townspeople and business owners alike.
"We've had no naysayers," he added, "and have heard lots of great oral histories as we've gone along. Everyone is really excited. It has been very, very positive."
Lester Wilson, who owns multiple storefronts along East Washington Street, said he envisions the project "getting curiosity up with people out roaming around downtown." He pointed to the old real estate axiom of "location, location, location" benefiting the community, the consumer and the business owner.
Gary Barcus, president of Main Street Greencastle, agreed.
"I think this has given us the chance to build that cohesion for downtown (that we have been needing)."
Calling it a "win-win-win all the way around," Barcus pointed out that recent shopping center developments around Indianapolis have been modeling their plans on small-town downtowns. "This is how people want to shop," he added.
As far as the overall facade project, Mayor Murray surmised that "people can identify with what's been going on in Plainfield" as an example of the unified, historic approach Greencastle would like to undertake downtown.
Such facades, Mather pointed out in his presentation to the City Council, can help create the "vibrant community center" and "welcoming atmosphere" of a thriving downtown.
"It's not just for economic development," he stressed, "but (for) the development or people and interest in the downtown and people enjoying your downtown."
Likely the first facade improvements the public may see, Mather said, would be masonry and tuck-pointing rehabilitation. He would like to have that occur before winter sets in, otherwise it would be pushed back until spring 2012.
The plan, he noted, is to look at every building downtown (although the old Mason Jewelers building will not be included because of its present state and an ongoing insurance claim).
Mather also pointed out a few buildings that could undergo dramatic change.
First, he mentioned the old Prevo's storefront at the corner of Washington and Indiana streets with its distinctive chrome and glass art-deco entrance. While that style is not indicative of the period of the rest of the buildings in the Historic Courthouse District (from the 1890s-1939), it still may be something the community wants to preserve as unique to the Greencastle streetscape, Mather said.
He also pointed to the Perry Wainman-owned building at 20 E. Washington St. and how its facade has been covered up since the early 1970s when it was Coan's Pharmacy.
"This is an example of a building that would need a major change from the black asphalt sheath on its front," Mather said.
Another significant change is proposed for the building at 25 W. Franklin St., which sits at the northeast corner of Franklin and Jackson streets in a highly visible location on the square.
Currently wrapped in metal siding (aqua blue and beige), the building has a wooden stairway running up the Jackson Street side of it to a second-floor apartment.
The study has proposed relocating the stairway and removing the metal wrappings, or "slipcover front," along with restoring windows to the west side of the building.
Those changes, which Mather said have been discussed with the property owner, would help the city create a "better visual entry to the downtown."
Later in the evening Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved the resolution endorsing the downtown facade improvement plan on a motion by Councilor T.J. Smith and a second from Phyllis Rokicki.
"We are all very anxious to approve this resolution and move forward," Rokicki said.