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Charleroi's facade program gets boost

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Debbie Keefer understands the value of funding facade improvements in the downtown business community.

“Everyone benefits because the facades create the streetscape,” said the executive director of the Mon Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“It adds to ambiance of the downtown. Landlords increase the value of their property. Business owners create a more attractive place of business.”

The Charleroi Design Committee, operating in conjunction with the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, has established a Facade Improvement Project II to assist business and property owners in Charleroi's central business district in improving the appearance of the facades of commercial buildings.

Funding for the program was secured through the Washington County Local Share Account.

This is the second award of funding stretched out over three years. The first awards were issued in 2011. The chamber distributed $46,000 in the first pool of funding received from the LSA in 2011 and 2012, representing approximately $120,000 in property improvements within the community.

The new award is for $60,000 and will be available to draw from in September.

The state Department of Community and Economic Development funded $30,000 in facade improvements over four years beginning in 2000 under the borough's Main Street program.

Informational meetings will be held 9 to 10 a.m. and 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Mon Valley Regional Chamber building, One Chamber Plaza, for commercial property owners.

Owners of businesses and commercial properties in the project area are eligible to apply for the matching grant facade project.

The project area includes all of McKean and Fallowfield avenues, including Chamber Plaza and all streets perpendicular.

The purposes of the project are:

• To stimulate investment, sales and other economic activities in the central business district.

• To enhance the existing historic character of building in the central business district.

• To promote the image of the central business district as a strong economic entity.

• To encourage preventive maintenance and proper repair of the buildings and storefronts.

• To increase property values in the central business district.

• To encourage new businesses to locate in the central business district.

Grants will be made on a matching basis with a maximum grant amount of $5,000 per property. Minimum grants are $1,000 per property. Grants will be a reimbursement basis only.

Eligible grant activities must be reviewed and approved by the design committee and applicants must show proof of payment to their contractors and suppliers to be reimbursed under the grant guidelines.

Those interested in completing projects who cannot attend the informational sessions, guidelines and application can be e-mailed by request at or by calling 724-483-3507.

Keefer is the grant administrator, and John Mollenauer is the design committee chairman.

Keefer said improving business facades brings more customers downtown indirectly.

“These historic buildings are old and need attention,” Keefer said. “It improves the attractiveness of good buildings. People are still drawn to an architecturally interesting downtown.”

Charleroi's downtown is a very good blend of historic structures which “meet today's needs,” including physicians corporate headquarters, retailers and the restaurants which the Magic City is renowned for.

“People need these services and to preserve that historic flavor of buildings can only help,” Keefer said. “We want it to look attractive when they come downtown.

Keefer applauded those building owners who maintain the ornamental architectural design on the historic buildings, saying they get very strong consideration from the design committee.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or