The City of Toledo awarded two grants to upgrade the façade of two buildings on Main Street in East Toledo.
Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner announced the grants at a press conference on Tuesday.
The Merrit Building, at 113 Main Street, and the Friedman Building, at 117 Main Street, need new roofs, windows and a coat of paint, according to Bob Krompak, economic development specialist with Neighborhood Housing Services. NHS informs commercial property owners of eligible grants, helps with grant applications, provides consultation and arranges financing and technical assistance.
The Merrit Building was completely unusuable, he said, as were the second and third floors of the Friedman Building.
“They needed general façade work to upgrade the look of the buildings,” he said.
“The Merrit Building’s façade was actually at the point where they were afraid it was going to fall onto the sidewalk and street. So there was a lot of structural work needed,” said Krompak.
Last spring, NHS expanded its business model to include economic and community development in addition to the housing services it provides.
“These were services that were formerly provided by River East Economic Revitalization Corporation. But they have run into some financial issues. They’re winding down their operations and liquidating their assets. So someone needed to step up and do business assistance in the community, because in recent years, a lot of the good work they had accomplished in the past in the Main and Front street area and the Starr Avenue commercial district has fallen by the wayside,” said Krompak. “So we established a business assistance program. We went out and visited all the different businesses in the neighborhood and talked with all the property owners. We passed out folders, which familiarized them with the different programs that are available through the City of Toledo, Lucas County, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and other resources to help people expand their businesses or start up new businesses. Hopefully, this will increase employment opportunities for people in the east suburban area. We are starting a sort of revitalization of Main Street.”
Sam Moawad, an investor, bought the Merrit and Friedman buildings, he said.
“To get all the financing in place, he had to come up with some investment dollars of his own, which he did, but he needed some additional assistance. So through the City of Toledo’s façade grant program, we were able to get two façade grants, each $32,500, which can be used for façade improvements. The program basically covers one-third of the cost of façade improvements up to $32,500,” he said.
“This enabled Moawad to get additional financing for the project,” he said. The entire cost of the project is over $250,000. “What’s really great is that he’s already secured an employer.”
Neighborhood Health Association, which is on the first floor of the Friedman Building, will be adding 12-15 employees from other sites to the second and third floors, he said.
“It will then be fully occupied,” he said.
“The Merrit Building is being totally refurbished. Since it’s next door to the Friedman Building, it should be easier for Mr. Moawad to market that building. He wants to lease it to employees of some other firm,” said Krompak.
NHS is interested in assisting two more building owners in the area, though he can’t disclose their identity at this time.
“They also want to obtain façade grants to upgrade their buildings. So generally, we feel it will help improve the atmosphere of the whole Main Street area,” he said.
“The Main-Front area is on a roll. This is actually the first private investment that is being made in East Toledo as a result of what’s been done there already. Mr. Moawad said he decided to purchase these two buildings and invest there because when the economy straightens out, there are going to be investors going in there, and he knows that this will put him in a really good position as a commercial property owner to make some serious money,” he said.
NHS has also applied to the Local Initiative Support Corp. (LISC) for a grant.
“We want to take a look at the streetscape at Main and Front and come up with some concepts that we hope will influence property owners to make additional improvements to the other buildings in the area,” he said.