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Bangor announces next round of façade improvement grants

The grant program can be used to replace windows, doors, put on a fresh coat of paint, add awnings, signs, and other types of exterior renovations.

BANGOR, Maine — History can sometimes fade, and beauty can diminish. 

Reversing those two realities is what's behind a federal grant program to repair and restore part of Maine's history: the older historic buildings.

The Façade Improvement Grant Program helps businesses restore the character of a historic building. The funds have to be used to renovate the exterior of a building or storefront in designated Bangor areas.

The program offers grants that double the eligible private investment for business owners, all in an effort to improve the appearance of Bangor businesses and buildings and make them more attractive to residents and visitors.

The federal monies from the Community Development Block Grant Funding, from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The maximum grant amount the city of Bangor is giving out is $15,000.

"We have this beautiful historic building, but it does take some upkeep, and when you are restoring something historically, you need to use certain materials," said Annette Dodd, the owner of The Rock & Art Shop in downtown Bangor.

Dodd said she had some leakage that was rotting some of her storefronts' woodwork, so she urgently needed to repair it with new wood and was able to do so thanks to the façade grant.

"Having the front of the façade look crisp and clean is so important, to making sure people are enjoying the downtown and shopping in my business," she added.

"They must be a fixed use or commercial building, so no strictly residential buildings," said Tyler Collins, Community and Economic Development Officer for the city of Bangor. "Grants are available up to 15,000 which are required to be matched one-to-one with private investments."

Collins said it's a competitive application as many people get excited when they have the opportunity to complete an exterior renovation project that they can basically be cut in half.

"Typically businesses will come back year after year and some of them will break up projects into a couple of years," said Collins.

Businesses and building owners can re-apply to the grant if they had already received one in the past. 

The Penobscot Theatre Company is a building that is 100 years old, its executive director Jen Shepard said she has a list of exterior improvements and renovations she would like to do in the near future and wants to re-apply to the Façade improvement grants for more assistance.

"When we got the money we had the metal at the top of the building repainted, we had the wood refreshed on all of our doors, and we had the marquees painted as well," said Jen Shepard, executive director at the Penobscot Theatre Company. 

Shepard said next on the list is to do tuckpointing on two sides of the oldest brick building the theatre owns.

"We also need to re-do our roof above our third-floor dressing rooms," said Shepard. "With a 100-year-old building, a lot of Bangor has old buildings, the work is never done, so it's great that the city gives support to keep Bangor looking beautiful."

"Funding has to be spent in specific ways and one of those ways is to benefit these low to moderate-income areas," added Collins.

The grant program can be used to replace windows, doors, put on a fresh coat of paint, add awnings, signs, and other types of exterior renovations.

The YMCA in Bangor received two grants, one of which was able to repair its granite stairs, walkway, and the awning above the doorway. For the second façade grant it got, the non-profit focused on painting and restoring the building's soffits, the brick facing, and structures around the windows.

"Particularly in the front, it makes it more accessible and safe for the members and the people that are using the facility," said Neil MacKay, COO, and CFO for the Bangor YMCA.

Collins said this year, the city of Bangor has funds to help about eight to 10 businesses.

If you would like to read a complete list of guidelines from the city of Bangor on its façade improvement grant, click here. Collins said applications will open up this week and are will leave it open for a month.

Similar façade improvement programs have been available in Lewiston and Portland.  

If you are interested in checking the façade grant program in Portland, click here, and in Lewiston, click here.