It wasn’t long ago that bond payments for the $7.3 million Uptown parking garage were expected to eat up most available tax-increment grant funds for Uptown development projects.
But the board overseeing the Urban Revitalization Agency awarded $22,000 more in grants to four projects Tuesday, pushing the total for the past five months alone past $142,000.
The grants approved Tuesday included $17,805 to help establish a modern-day speakeasy at the Miner’s Hotel at 53 W. Park St. and $2,308 to help Ken Clark to put a new roof on a house on Colorado Street.
“If this house had sat vacant for another winter, it wouldn’t be worth saving,” Clark said of the house at 422 S. Colorado St. next to his Action Automotive repair shop.
He is turning the two-story house, parts of which are at least 130 years old, into a four-bedroom, three-bath rental property.
After bonds were sold in August 2016 for the parking garage, which opened this past February, it was thought that most available grant money for smaller projects would dry up for a while.
That’s because the old URA tax-increment district was redrawn in 2014, taking tax revenue back to a zero base that would only grow from future improvements in the area that generated new, additional property taxes.
But the new NorthWestern Energy building on Park Street generated more new tax revenue than initially projected and newly set tax values have been higher than anticipated.
The URA board doled out more than $82,000 in grants for six projects alone in June, the last month of the old fiscal year, and the total since July 1 is more than $60,000. And there’s still about $300,000 in available grant money left this year.
Board member Bob Brown said that’s been a pleasant surprise, which drew a nod from URA Director Karen Byrnes, who is also the county’s community development director.
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“We have been able to do more than we anticipated we would be able to do,” she said.
With help from the URA, Ted Ackerman and his family have helped turn the old Miner’s Trust and Bank Building into a boutique hotel. They’re up to 12 rooms and now they’re putting in an old-time bar reminiscent of a Prohibition-era speakeasy.
The $17,805 grant awarded Tuesday will cover 25 percent of eligible project costs, which total $71,223. Ackerman said he hopes to have it open by late December.
Clark bought the old, two-story house on South Colorado Street across from his auto shop on South Main Street and is working to make it a rental home.
The place was falling apart — literally — but Clark spends a couple of hours working on it each night after repairing cars and most of his Saturdays as well. He’s doing something the URA board likes.
“I appreciate the amount of sweat equity you are putting into this,” Brown told Clark.
The grant will cover 25 percent of the $9,232 in eligible costs for installing a new roof.
Others getting grants Tuesday were:
• Laura Repola, a naturopathic physician, got a $1,035 grant to install a new bathroom in an upstairs portion of her place at 124 S. Main St. that she’s turning into a rental apartment. She had gotten URA grant money in the past, too.
• Danielle Zimmerman got a $1,093 grant to help defray costs for removing asbestos in the old O’Rourke Building at 103 W. Quartz St. That project also has received previous URA funds.