by Shaun Tilghman
Dawn Patrick, owner of Modern Impressions, is the first business owner to take advantage of the North Manchester Façade Improvement Program recently created by the town council to assist building owners in restoring the exteriors of their downtown establishments.
The local program is one of two façade improvement opportunities that are currently ongoing in North Manchester; the other involves a grant the town received through the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA). Town officials first applied for the OCRA grant approximately three years ago, but prior to that they had received a design grant, which is when downtown building owners interested in participating could sign-up, according to town manager Dan Hannaford.
“We had 17 buildings included in that process originally, but Scott Zook (owner of Zook’s Café) has since dropped out of it because he did a lot of the work on his building himself,” said Hannaford. “I talked to all of the other building owners just last week and the architect is coming back around Dec. 12 or 13 to finalize everything for the construction phase – bids have to be out in March and the actual construction should then start around May.
“The OCRA grant is a one-time deal, so if you didn’t sign up when we were applying for it then you couldn’t get in on it later. But, the town council made the decision that they wanted to help other building owners downtown improve their buildings, so they had me do some research. I looked at a couple of different communities that had city- or town-funded grants, and borrowed some of the basic concepts from them.”
When the town was applying for the OCRA grant three years ago, Patrick did not yet own the hair salon, located at 129 E. Main Street, and the previous owner didn’t get involved in the process.
“I knew about the other grant the town was getting, but it was too late for me to participate once I took ownership of the building,” Patrick added.
“But then [Town Building Commissioner] Bernie Ferringer was in one day and he mentioned the town’s local grant program,” she continued. “A lot of stuff on the outside of my building was done a long time ago and was definitely in need of some updating, so I went to talk to Dan [Hannaford] about what the grant process entailed and he gave me all of the paperwork.”
Any downtown building owner can apply for the town’s Façade Improvement Program, which consists of an 80/20 ratio in terms of the funding, for which the town will contribute a maximum of $8,000. Overall, the guidelines for the town’s program are similar to those of the façade grant from OCRA.
“We have guidelines that the building owners have to go by,” Hannaford explained, “which are basically to ensure that the project is historic. The money can be used for painting, tuck pointing, new windows or doors, and even signage in some cases, but the building owner does have to present their plan to our committee for approval. Dawn was the first one to go through the process, which she began on June 6, so she had to figure out what she was going to do and find somebody to do the work.”
One big difference between the town’s grant program and the OCRA grant is that, with the OCRA grant, the architect will put all of that work out for bids with the possibility of there being several contractors involved, but with the town grant, the building owner gets their own bids from contractors.
According to Patrick, she had to get two estimates to go along with her written plans and a letter addressed to the town asking for permission. “It really wasn’t a difficult process considering what you get in return,” she said.
“They had restrictions on certain things,” Patrick continued, “but it was all clearly outlined and made a lot of sense based on what they’re trying to accomplish with the downtown. Dr. (William) Hankee was actually a big influence when I was deciding what to do. He went down to Madison, Ind., which has been historically redone, when he designed his building, so he showed me a website with pictures taken in Madison.
“Dr. Hankee even pointed out a building that looked very similar to mine. He also mentioned that I have a black front door and some black inside, so he thought it would look nice to incorporate that on the outside of my building as well. I think he was right, and it also gives the building a classy look, which is a reflection of the quality of work we do inside.
“I used D&C Construction, from South Whitley, and they tore everything off the front on Oct. 7 and they finished on Nov. 26. The plans included tearing off the existing wood and removing the old sign, then they tuckpointed, power washed and painted. I also got all new windows and had the door for the rental apartment repainted. We were already really excited about it and then we just kept getting more and more compliments once it was finished – I love the way it turned out, I think it looks amazing.”
Hannaford added, “I think she did a great job and the contractor she used did a great job. She had talked with Dr. Hankee and I think that kind of influenced the colors she chose, so when you step back and look at the two buildings next to each other they complement very well. Really, that’s what we want; we want each building to have a distinct look so that they don’t all look the same, but we also want them to look nice and clean when they’re done.
“It all went very smoothly, and I think the key for anyone else that wants to do it is to have a plan of what they want to do and just make sure it meets historic guidelines. There has already been some more interest in the program – Zooks are going to apply for it to put some windows in their building, I think Matt Mize is going to get in on it, and the Historical Museum is working on a proposal.”
Hannaford went on to say that at this time, they are somewhat evaluating the program because the maximum amount the town will provide is based on the estimates they were hearing for the work to be done through the OCRA grant. Thus, that amount could possibly be increased at some point if necessary.
With the $8,000 town limit, Patrick will end up paying for just about half of the project’s total cost. “I really just want to thank the town for approving this and helping me do it,” she explained. “It looks great and I’m really proud of it, so when people ask I make sure to let them know the town helped make it happen.”
Patrick concluded by stating that Modern Impressions continues to be a full service salon open six days a week (Monday 1-7 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday by appointment) for your convenience; walk-ins are welcome. The staff would like to serve all of your nail and hair care needs, and they offer 10 percent off all services for new clients, senior citizens, and college students.