Aprogram that has spruced up the facades of about 60 downtown businesses could become more popular after the Medford Urban Renewal Agency Thursday tripled the budget and nearly tripled the amount available to renovate a building.

Aprogram that has spruced up the facades of about 60 downtown businesses could become more popular after the Medford Urban Renewal Agency Thursday tripled the budget and nearly tripled the amount available to renovate a building.

The MURA board, which is composed of the City Council members, also expanded the facade improvement program to include government buildings as well as private businesses.

The annual budget now is $450,000, compared with $150,000 previously. The amount a particular business can receive from a matching grant jumped from $37,500 to $100,000.

The MURA board decided to expand the program to include businesses and government buildings in the entire MURA boundary, which extends from McAndrews Road on the north through Belknap Road on the southand includes most of downtown and much of the business district in south Medford.

Buildings must have been constructed before 1988 to qualify for the program.

The city hopes to have an application form and list of qualifications available on its website tomorrow at www.ci.medford.or.us/urbanrenewal.

Al Densmore, a MURA board member, said the facade program has been important in revitalizing the downtown area. He said the two-page application form should be relatively easy for most building owners to fill out.

"I don't know of a government application form that is so simple and easy," he said.

Improvement work can include store fronts, windows, doors, cornices, gutters, downspouts, signs, graphics, exterior lighting, canopies, awnings, painting, masonry, accessibility and minor landscaping.

If a building is going to receive exterior improvements, the grant money also can pay for repairs to the structure, foundation, seismic retrofits and other interior renovations.

Repairs that are not authorized include roofs, security systems, interior window coverings, non-permanent fixtures, personal property and equipment as well as barbed wire fencing and paving.

Applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis.

One government agency that will apply for a grant is the Jackson County Housing Authority, which wants to renovate the former Grand Hotel at 202 Front St., which has been converted into a 26-unit low-income apartment complex.

Betty McRoberts, director of development for the Housing Authority, said her organization has received an $800,000 grant from the state of Oregon that will pay for design and development work as well as some of the remodeling of the 1915 building.

"The money we received is not sufficient to do the required items," she said.

An extra $100,000 from the city would help with a long list of problems such as sprucing up the brickwork, replacing windows and doors and other work.

McRoberts said the roof has been leaking for four years and there is no real heating and air-conditioning system, so the hallways and lobby are always stuffy and hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

John Duffie, president of the Heart of Medford board of directors, said the city saved about $300,000 when it took over administration of MURA.

That savings, he said, has been plowed back into the facade and building renovation program.

The city is also contracting with his organization, which has a design committee, to review the proposed renovation projects. A $12,000 annual contract will help offset his organization's expenses in reviewing the projects.

Duffie said he didn't think it would be difficult to find building owners who would tap into the renovation grants.

"History has shown that they have pretty much exhausted the money every year," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.