After months of hard work on their Façade Grant Program in 2021, a CDBG-CV grant was awarded to Osceola Chamber Mainstreet (OCMS) in January of 2022. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and more-than-ample local and regional contractor workloads, no bids were submitted in that calendar year. Yet, determined to make the beautification project a reality, OCMS quickly pivoted, asking for an extension for the program and the grant timelines, ultimately being approved again, in May of 2023.

This time, with bids delivered over the late Summer and Fall of that year, the construction contract and project of the OCMS Façade Program was finally awarded to Barry Larson & Son General Contractors. By January of this year, the federal funding through the CDBG-CV program as well as additional funds through the American Rescue Plan program were on hand to help Chamber-Main Street and local businesses kick off the new renovations around the square.

“This is an exciting time,” said Ashleigh Eckels, OCMS Executive Director. “The Façade program has been in the works for a long time, and seeing the projects in action really makes our team’s hard work worthwhile.”

The Façade program focuses on bringing Osceola’s Historic Square architecture and buildings up to date through the redesign and reconstruction of more than half a dozen buildings around the square that’d fallen into disarray. These buildings, to qualify for the CDBG-CV grant funds must meet the specification under §570.208-b – Criteria for national objectives –related to activities which aid in the prevention or elimination of slums or blight. Once qualified, the building owners would apply for the grant funding as awarded to the State – part of more than $500,000 in all – and put to toward their renovations.

The GDBG-CV funding only pushed the façade project part of the way, though. While each renovation project was funded up to 50% by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and the CDBG-VC grant, 25% additional financing was required by the building owner. Some owners, who choose to do more than façade updates, contributed larger percentages to their specific program. Another 20% of the funding was provided by the city through American Rescue Plan funds.

“The American Rescue Plan funds perfectly fit this project, “said Ty Wheeler, Osceola’s City Administrator. “It explicitly focuses on providing small businesses and hard-hit industries with economic recovery support.”

Once the renovation estimates came in, final project funding gaps of approximately $5,000 per project was kicked in by OCMS.

“We wanted to do everything we possibly could to make this façade project a success,” said Eckels.

On February 20th, the first signs of the project were underway with the sound of swinging hammers, screaming saws and old, worn building façades being demo’d around the square. The buildings and businesses participating in this program include:

• LaCarona at 125 1/2 N. Main
• Slaymaker’s building at 113 S. Main
• Ironhorse Neighborhood Grill at 123 S. Main
• Lana’s Nails at 205 S. Main
• The building at 118 W. Jefferson
• Ivy Rose at 124 W. Jefferson
• Kerr Family Dentistry at 148 W. Jefferson
• Timber Ridge Country Market at 117 W. Washington

On their Facebook Page, the team a Timber Ridge said, “Face-lift update time!” sharing their excitement along with some renovation and deconstruction photos.

OCMS and the building owners have partnered with architect Pete Franks, who designed the renovations to bring the Osceola Amtrack Depot, and SICOG’s Jeremey Rounds for the planning and development management for the renovations.

Projects are slated to take six-to-eight weeks to complete and each and every one of the participants are excited for the new updates.

“This will really help being our historic square back to life,” said Eckels. “Opportunities like these make being involved with our community so rewarding.”

If you have questions or would like additional information about the OCMS Façade Program, please reach out to Ashleigh Eckels, Osceola Chamber Main Street Executive Director, at 115 E Washington Street, Osceola, IA 50213 or by calling 641-342-4200 or emailing [email protected].

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