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Sprucing Up

Madison’s Mulberry Street is focus of facade improvement project

Grant money will help make project a reality

(August 2017) – Mulberry Street is one of the most architecturally intact and historical streets in Madison, Ind.’s downtown commercial district, but it has not received the care and attention that neighboring Main Street receives. The facades of many of the historic buildings need routine maintenance like painting and window repair.
To address these issues, the Madison Main Street Program’s Design Committee formed the Mulberry Façade Improvement Team to work with the city, tree board, property owners and local contractors to develop facade improvement plans for each participating building.

Photo by Ben Goldman

The façade of 316 Mulberry St. in Madison, Ind., is one of the properties slated for improvement by a grant program.

Initially, the Mulberry Street Façade Improvement Team anticipated partnering with property owners on a few quick and easy projects to beautify the 300 block of Mulberry Street between Main and Second Street. However, as bids came in, the team quickly learned of significant structural damage and other needs that would require more extensive work.
After re-evaluating the situation, the team determined that the project would need to be bigger than it thought. The team plans to continue to meet with property owners about facade improvement plans, while also continuing to meet with local contractors to receive bids for plans. Projects may include repair of historic windows, repair or replacement of doors, improvements or repairs to the main and upper level storefronts, repainting façade, awnings and signage. Madison’s Sherwin Williams store has even donated paint for the project.
The goal of the Façade Grant Program is to stimulate improvements to this important historic commercial area of downtown. The team expects that improving the building appearances will lead to an increase in property values, improved marketability and could even attract new businesses, residents and visitors to the area. As per the terms of the grant, the work has to be completed by June 2018. The goal is to get as much work done as possible before this winter.

Photo by Ben Goldman

The property at 322 Mulberry St. will get facade improvement despite housing a business.

“The commercial buildings here are beautiful and they have such a presence,” said Kim Nyberg, executive director of the Madison Area Arts Alliance and a member of the Mulberry Street Façade Improvement Team. “They really show the past and the future.”
The Façade Improvement Grant funds a 1:3 match, essentially meaning that property owners must commit to contributing one quarter of the cost of renovations. The total amount of funds available for the project is $25,000. The team views these grants as investments in the future of the block.
“Our goal isn’t just to make a building look pretty. There’s no point painting a building that might not be standing in five to 10 years. We want to actually fix problems, not just paint over them,” said Victoria Perry, the executive director of the Madison Main Street Program and a member of the Mulberry Improvement Team.
So far, 13 property owners have signed up to participate in the projects. The buildings are a mixture of commercial and residential, and after the repairs, it is possible that some new commercial storefronts will be added. Right now, some of the properties on the block cannot use their ground floor storefront space for a commercial business without making repairs to bring them up to code. Money from the Façade Improvement Program could help fund these repairs.
“As you walk down Main Street, you see so many beautiful old buildings that have been so well maintained,” Perry said. “When you get to Mulberry and look up the street, there are so many buildings that need work. It’s a stark contrast.”
“Madison is certainly a beautiful town,” said Lisa Lumpford, who owns the buildings at 316 and 322 Mulberry St. She plans to have the façades painted and repair the gutters and windows. “The expenses of maintaining and providing much-needed repairs to the historic buildings is high, so it’s great that there is grant money available to help property owners keep Madison beautiful.” Currently, 322 Mulberry St. has a framing shop located on the ground floor, but the ground floor of 316 is unoccupied. Because she also owns the Main Street Antique Mall and Collectibles, she is interested in renting the space once the façade is repaired.
The Mulberry Improvement Team has already improved the Mulberry Street Parking Lot by installing two small gardens, planting a tree and adding a suggestion box. The team also had a bike lane painted on the street. The Madison Tree Board is slated to plant new trees on the sidewalk in the fall.

The Mulberry Improvement Team is a collaboration between the City of Madison, Madison Main Street Program, America’s Best Communities contest and the State of Indiana Downtown Enhancement Grant Team. The team is made up of Link Ludington, Whitney Wyatt, Happy Smith, Andrew Forrester, Linda Lytle, Jim Olson, Perry and Nyberg.

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