The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Hurley meeting promotes facade improvement program


January 8, 2020


Hurley — The Northwest Regional Planning Commission and the Hurley Area Chamber of Commerce want downtown Hurley business owners to know they may be eligible for low-interest loans to improve their facades.

Representatives of the 10-county, Spooner-based regional planning commission and the chamber held a meeting in Hurley Tuesday to provide additional information on the loan program.

“It’s a great program that offers pretty affordable money to upgrade a traditional downtown area,” said Ken Pearson, a business development specialist/loan fund manager with the Northwest Regional Planning Commission. “It’s just a great immediate impact to the economy and wellbeing of the downtown ecosystem.”

Along with growing the value of a business and improving the quality of a downtown, Pearson said facade improvements can also help ongoing placemaking efforts as attractive downtowns encourage visitors to stop and are often more walkable.

“I think they’re fun projects to work on because you see the instant result and how it impacts the community,” Pearson said.

The facade improvement program offers loans up to $30,000 with a 2% interest rate for up to 10 years — unless the property is sold — according to information presented at the meeting.

The loans can be used to improve a commercial building’s facade — which can include signs, doors and windows, awnings, exterior graphics and lighting or landscape improvements.

The loan program was established in 2006 and Hurley has been one of the communities that has benefitted the most, Pearson said, with several Hurley businesses — including the chamber of commerce — having utilized facade loans in the past.

The Hurley Chamber is in the process of revising the community’s guidelines on facade improvements, according to Rita Franzoi, the chamber’s marketing director. A set of guidelines for facade work and a local organization that can determine whether projects seeking funding meet those guidelines is necessary to participate in the loan program, Pearson said.

To be eligible for the loans, a business would have to be in a community’s downtown, Pearson said, and the work would have to be on the side of the building facing the main street or downtown area. He added that the definition of a downtown or main street can be somewhat determined at the local level, in recognition that communities don’t always have a single street as its main street.

Pearson emphasized that communities maintain a large degree of control over the facade loans.

“It’s pretty much all local control. You develop the design, you develop the aesthetic,” he said, explaining the communities that participate in the program have varying degrees of flexibility in the facade improvements they allow. “It’s really up to the local community to determine what they want their community to look like.”

Hurley is currently the only Iron County community eligible to participate in the program, according to Pearson, but any of the other communities in the county would be eligible if they established the necessary local guidelines and organization to oversee the program.

Pearson said he hopes Tuesday’s meeting leads to additional loan applications as there is room for the program to grow.

The Northwest Regional Planning Commission administers the loan program on behalf of the Northwest Wisconsin Regional Economic Development Fund, according to Pearson.

The bylaws that govern the regional development’s funds dictate 10% of the overall loan fund can be available for the facade program, Pearson said, meaning roughly $450,000 of the approximately $4.5 million fund can be loaned out for facade work in the seven participating counties.

For more information on Hurley’s facade loan program, contact Franzoi at 715-561-4334. She told the Daily Globe there are several other loan programs that may be available to current and prospective businesses in the city she also could provide information on.


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