For more than a decade, Denison’s Facade Grant Program has been a steady tool for facilitating reinvestment and renewal in the city’s historic downtown. On Thursday, the Denison Development Alliance took action to expand the program to encompass all of the historic downtown overlay district, giving incentives for redevelopment throughout the heart of the city.

For more than a decade, Denison’s Facade Grant Program has been a steady tool for facilitating reinvestment and renewal in the city’s historic downtown. On Thursday, the Denison Development Alliance took action to expand the program to encompass all of the historic downtown overlay district, giving incentives for redevelopment throughout the heart of the city.


Main Street Director Donna Dow said the program offers grants of up to $3,000 for business owners looking to repair, restore and improve the front facade of their shops and businesses. The improvements funded through this program can range from heavy maintenance to a new coat of paint, she said.


"It isn’t really specific," Dow said. "It can be painting, it can be mortar work. It is basically maintenance of the front."


Previously, the program focused on the central area of downtown, with an emphasis on Main Street, DDA Vice President William Myers said on Friday. Now, grants will be offered throughout the district. Myers said this could be a boon to recent commercial developments along Woodard Street and Chestnut Street.


Each year, between 10 to 15 grants were issued through the program. While the grants would top off at $3,000 for a $6,000 project, Dow said many property owners went well beyond that scope with their projects. In total, more than $430,000 has been distributed through the program.


Recently, Dow said many of the projects have focused on removing metal slipcovers and false facades that were put up over the original faces of downtown buildings in the 1960s and ’70s.


"I think the merchants were trying to modernize and keep up with the times," Colleen Mungioli said. With her husband, Mungioli owns two storefronts in the 300 block of Main Street that have received grants through the program. Mungioli said she is a part of a group of downtown businesses who are dedicated to returning the streetscape to its original look and feel.


When construction workers removed the false front from her building at 311 W. Main St., Mungioli said they discovered transom windows with the original wavy glass still intact. Other windows in the building will soon be replaced to match that historic look.


Work at the neighboring building at 313 W. Main revealed art deco stucco work that was damaged by time and the weight of the front facade. Mungioli said she is currently working with the Texas Historical Commission on how to maintain the existing stucco.


Myers said the decision to expand the program came from its success in redeveloping Main Street. As one business owner would improve a property, others would soon follow suit creating a chain reaction of reinvestment and improvement. These improvements would then catch the attention of prospective business overs.


"There is investment and people enjoy being in a place that is constantly improving," Myers said. "More importantly, the shoppers see it and it all starts to build momentum."


After a surge in interest in the program in 2014, with several of 2015’s grants stemming from last year’s applications, funding for the program was moved from the Denison Development Foundation to the DDA earlier this year.


Historically, the program had been budgeted for $30,000 each year, Myers said about $34,000 is earmarked for this year’s grants through the Alliance. DDA President Tony Kaai said there has been talk about the budget for the program next year, and he expects there to be no cap on the program as it has little impact on the DDA’s incentive budget.


"If you could get everything cleaned up like we did on Main Street, why would you put a cap on it?" Kaai said on Thursday. "Well, you don’t want to run out of money, but you probably aren’t going to."


Through the program, Dow said many business owners are able to afford the improvements to their properties that they likely wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. While the tangible benefits are obvious, Dow said morale boost it gives to businesses is just as important.


"I think it gives us pride in our community," Dow said. "It shows how proud we are, and that can have a snowball effect."