United front

Tiffin City Council moved forward on creating a Downtown Facade Enhancement Program at a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday.

Mayor Aaron Montz said the city is to partner with Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. to provide the grant program. A 50-percent reimbursement of expenses up to $10,000 would be provided to applicants who revitalize exterior facades of income-producing properties while also preserving the historic look of buildings in the downtown.

Possible improvements include awnings, masonry work and painting, or addition of improved fire escapes.

Property owners also must maintain the improvements for a minimum of five years without alteration, unless a request is made to the Tiffin Architectural Board of Review.

The grant is to be available until Sept. 1. After that time, property owners can apply for additional funds. Property owners also could re-apply annually. Priority would be given to first-time applicants.

He suggested appropriating $50,000 for this year. If the program works and the budget permits, he said he would like to increase the allocation in next year’s budget to $100,000.

SIEDC downtown development coordinator Amy Reinhart said she has looked at cities such as Delaware that have implemented a similar program.

“They are seeing immense change in their downtown,” she said. “This program really does stir a lot of activity.”

Reinhart said while the program is on a first-come, first-served basis, the applications must be approved by committees such as the zoning board and the architectural review board.

No reimbursements are given until receipts are received, she said.

Government buildings and city officials cannot participate in the program.

Due to his position of Laird Building property manager and the location downtown, Councilman Tyler Shuff abstained from voting on the creation of the program.

Council voted 5-0 to create the legislation to establish the program and allocate the $50,000 needed for the program.

“I think this is going to have an immense benefit once implemented,” he said. “I think if you look back in Tiffin, if we implement this, in a couple of years, you’re going to see the entire look of the downtown begin to change.”