Grants will spiff up two sites

INDEPENDENCE -- The city of Independence will help fund repairs to a pair of aging, but critical downtown properties during the coming year.

INDEPENDENCE -- The city of Independence will help fund repairs to a pair of aging, but critical downtown properties during the coming year.

Officials will provide a $27,000 grant to bolster a facade restoration of the old Taylor's Fountain and Gifts at 269 S. Main St. The once popular cafe closed its doors for good in 2006. The property is currently owned by Vahan Dinihanian of Beaverton.

The other beneficiary will be the recently-announced Area 51 Brewery, which is going into a commercial-industrial building to the south at 370 S. Main St.

That project, being planned by Salem developer Yul Provancha, will receive $11,500.

Independence's Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) approved grant applications for both properties in late July. The cash will come with conditions, however; both developers will receive reimbursements for the above amounts once there is a business tenant occupying the building.

"This isn't just about refurbishing some buildings, but getting some development done and jobs produced," said City Manager David Clyne.

The city has offered facade improvement dollars in the past through its urban renewal district, which currently, because of the economy, is "tapped out," Clyne said.

Officials will loan money through its economic development loan program for the grant. Not ideal, but necessary, Clyne said, noting both developers had been relying on the program when they began their restoration plans.

"To back out now would have been bad faith," Clyne said.

More important is getting unused properties up and running, said Mike Danko, community development director.

Conceptual drawings already exist for the Area 51 project, which will see a new and mostly glass facade and signage off Main Street. Provancha hopes to have the brewery open by next summer, officials have said.

Taylor's, meanwhile, has been vacant since the cafe closed almost five years ago.

Danko said he receives almost weekly interest in the corner site, but added, "things need to be done to better market it."

A final design for improvements to Taylor's hasn't been approved, nor has a timeline for the work. But what's proposed appears substantial.

Besides some roof and interior repairs, the project calls for the Main Street storefront to be reconstructed with period features and painting, said Jane Honbeck, HPC member.

The property will be stuccoed and painted on the Monmouth Street side. A second entry might be added and the Coca-Cola sign will be removed temporarily for repairs.

The restoration project and subsequent marketing of the building will be handled by B.C. Bemrose & Co.

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