Facade program makes successful launch

Mouse River Players Theatre’s new facade was the first completed in a City of Minot program to assist downtown entities with facade improvements. From the left are Jonathan Rosenthal, City of Minot economic developer; Renaissance Committee members Pat Bailey, Jason Bentley, Mark Lyman, Peter Hugret and Betty Fedorchak; and Ken and Cathy Haarstad with Mouse River Players.

Five downtown Minot properties have been getting a facelift under a facade improvement program approved by the Minot City Council in July 2021.

Work has been completed at Margie’s Art Glass Studio, 109 Main St.,  and Mouse River Players Theatre, 115 1st St. SE, and continues at the Whiskey Nine building at 111 W. Central Ave. and the Auslander Building at 24 1st St. NE. The new Century Eyewear location at 10 1st St. SW also is in the process of starting a project.

“Anyone looking at the projects done would really say it’s been a big improvement,” said Jonathan Rosenthal, economic developer for the City of Minot. “We would love to have more businesses, on Main Street in particular but throughout downtown, participate.”

Rosenthal said he is in conversation with several potential applicants already. Depending on the sizes of the projects, an estimated 10 to 14 projects could be completed with funds available, according to information provided to the city council in 2021.

The Downtown Facade Improvement Program provides a 10-year, no-interest, forgivable loan of 75% of total project costs, up to $100,000 for a single facade or $180,000 for corner buildings with two facades or larger facades of 55 feet or more. The program is intended to preserve the historic nature of downtown buildings while updating their functionality and energy efficiency. It is meant to encourage transformational projects rather than general maintenance.

It also seeks to promote private redevelopment and investment. Rosenthal said the program has incentivized some property owners to do additional exterior work or refurbish upper level apartments.

Peter Hugret, who chairs the committee overseeing for the program, said without the funds, it is unlikely the improvements would be happening. Restoring a historical look and renovating older buildings that often bring construction surprises can be an expensive process, he said, but abandoning attempts to modernize in favor of more fitting architecture has been worthwhile.

“I am very pleased. It took a while with COVID and all the supply shortages to get something visible that people could actually see, but it’s off to a good start. Mouse River Players and Margie’s Art Glass are complete, and I think they look really, really nice,” Hugret said.

The original program requires property owners to complete projects in six months, but Rosenthal said the need for extensions due to wait times for obtaining supplies has the city now looking at allowing a year for completion.

The program has other requirements, including engaging the street through pedestrian friendly features, such as viewing windows, and maintaining lit facades until 10 p.m.


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