Mandan News

Mandan seeks grant to improve the “Strip”

By LeAnn Eckroth
Lee News

The Mandan City Commission has agreed to apply for a $200,000 grant to make storefronts and businesses more attractive along the two-mile “Strip” on Memorial Highway.

Mandan officials intend to use the Bush Foundation grant to mirror a similar incentive program the city uses to encourage downtown businesses to improve their facades and landscaping. Upgrades must be visible from the road.

Ellen Huber, business development director for the city, said the Leadership, Pride and Image Committee helped research the grant and advised in the application. The committee is a branch of the Mandan Tomorrow Plan created to revitalize the city.

The city will submit the application before the March 13 deadline. It proposes to use the grant to reimburse property owners along the “Strip” half of the improvement costs or up to $10,000 for storefront and landscape upgrades. Improvements must face a roadway.

Applicants for the program would have to pay for at least a 50 percent match toward their qualified storefront/landscape improvement project.

The intent is to improve the image of the “Strip” because it is one of the gateways to the city, Huber said.

If the grant is approved, several businesses on Memorial Highway and connecting roads would be eligible to use the grant for exterior renovations. Borders also would include:
A portion of 46th Avenue Southeast north of 19th Southeast.
43rd Avenue Southeast, north of 19th Street Southeast.
40th Avenue Southeast, north of 19th Street Southeast.
36th Avenue Southeast.
32nd Avenue Southeast.
Third Street Southeast from Memorial Highway west to Riverwood Avenue.
Twin City Drive.

Mandan will be notified in April if it is a finalist for the grant and in July if it receives the grant, according to Huber.

If the grant is approved, future funding requests would be reviewed by the Mandan Growth Fund Committee and the Architectural Review Commission. Final funding decisions would be made by the Mandan City Commission.

Mandan’s existing Storefront Improvement program was launched in 2006 and offers matching funds to downtown businesses and commercial property owners to improve the exterior of buildings facing streets. Since then, 29 commercial storefront projects have been completed in the downtown areas using the existing store front improvement project.

Participants who completed their projects were awarded a total of $250,000 for improvements valued at $800,000 since then, according to Huber.

The existing program offers up to a $30,000 forgivable loan for up to half of the investment in rehabilitating a commercial building front. Up to $60,000 may be considered for a corner building based upon project investment and the amount of surface wall to be renovated. The interest-free loans are pro-rated and forgiven over the course of three years. It requires that the building project be completed and improvements remain intact during this period.

Huber said the program requires that applicants for the loan must meet city code requirements, and use quality building materials and greenery, and protect neighboring properties.

“Improvements to this major city entrance and commercial corridor will generate more community pride among residents,” she said. “Tourists will be more inclined to visit Mandan’s attractions and attend community events.”

She said it also should increase interest from potential investors and bring more jobs to the city, she said.

No decisions have been made about whether to continue the program after the grant is received, she said.