A popular facade-improvement grant program that has pumped $1.6 million into remodeling 80 downtown buildings over the past 13 years is winding down.
The Medford Urban Renewal Agency on Thursday approved its final five facade improvement grants, totaling $157,101.
$7,175 to Clint Orchuk to improve the E.H. Wilkenson Building at 217 E. Main St.
"It does my heart good to walk through downtown," said George Kramer, a local historian who has consulted on most of the facade projects. "There's not a block in the downtown where I can't see where the facade grant program did something."
Since its inception in 2010, the matching grant program has been the catalyst for more than $3 million in improvements to downtown buildings, including the Sparta at Main Street and Riverside Avenue, and the Holly Theatre at Holly and Sixth streets.
MURA's facade-improvement program received the James C. Howland Award in 2004 for municipal enrichment by the National League of Cities.
Kramer said the program started modestly, providing money for an awning in the rear of the former Red Rock Italian Eatery at the corner of Fir and Fourth streets.
"It essentially started as an awning and paint program," Kramer said.
At first, MURA provided a maximum $17,500 match, with additional design assistance provided by Kramer.
The dollar amount was increased to $37,500. Then, in 2010, the grant limit was increased to $100,000, and allowable improvements were expanded to include storefronts, windows, doors, cornices, gutters, downspouts, signs, graphics, exterior lighting, canopies, awnings, painting, masonry, accessibility and minor landscaping.
The Salvation Army received $100,000 for its church on Beatty Street. The Jackson County Housing Authority received $60,000 to repair the Grand Hotel.
Kramer said it would be difficult to say which buildings are his favorites, though three stand out because he didn't know what to expect because of years of neglect.
The Mellelo Coffee shop at the corner of Main and Holly streets was a "boring" building until layers of additions were peeled away, revealing an interesting storefront.
Habanero's restaurant on Front Street had a big, blank, uninviting wall that was turned into something interesting, Kramer said.
The Charles Fridiger Building, built in 1912 at 111 Central Ave., was an eyesore. After peeling away many of the additions, the building's original transom windows were revealed to be completely intact, Kramer said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.