GREENFIELD — If you’ve driven through or walked around downtown Greenfield recently, you may have noticed storefronts with newer and bigger windows, freshly painted trim and rejuvenated brick façades.
That’s because a $700,000 revitalization project wrapped up last month that updated 10 historic buildings downtown. Greenfield was one of three municipalities in 2016 that received a $500,000 Main Street Revitalization Program grant for façade restoration from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. An additional $200,000 matched the state grant from city funds, donations from the community and contributions from property owners.
Façade renovations to Wooden Bear Brewing’s tap room at 21 W. North St. changed the entire look of the business, said Mike Williams, director of operations. The brewery, which previously had a mostly brick storefront, added large floor to ceiling windows, a window pane garage door and other decorative fixtures.
Williams said the window additions have improved the atmosphere of the tap room, making it brighter and seem larger.
“When you were driving by, the building had a little less character maybe to it,” Williams said. “It’s definitely opened it up now where when you’re driving by, walking by, you can see inside.”
The façade renovation project focused on bringing downtown storefronts back to their historic charm, by replacing bricked-up sections where windows and doors used to adorn, such as the Wooden Bear, while also giving it a modern spin, said Joanie Fitzwater, planning director for Greenfield. Construction began near the end of 2017 and wrapped up a few weeks ago.
Most buildings had tuck-pointing work on the brick façade to stabilize the structures, Fitzwater said. Other than weather and construction management issues, Fitzwater called the project completion “exemplary.”
“I see the plans, but then to see the buildings and see how the modern storefronts still retain the historic character, it’s kind of blending the old with new and making our downtown businesses that much more viable,” Fitzwater said.
If the Health and Heritage Region — Greenfield, Fortville and Hancock County — is chosen as a Stellar designee at the end of the year, Fitzwater said it’ll put the city on the fast track for another façade grant.
The project also paved the way for one of the most prominent downtown Greenfield buildings to soon have a new small business. Earlier this year, the owner of The Randall Building, located at 2 E. Main St., was going to pull out of the project. Fitzwater said the grant had extra philanthropic funding, so project officials and the building owner agreed to a deal, where the project would cover the match grant if the owner would offer 800 square feet of space rent free for a year to an aspiring local entrepreneur.
That decision led to Greenfield Pitch Night in July, where a panel of judges chose The Butter Chip Bakery in a “Shark Tank” style competition. The online bakery’s owner, Lauren Zych, said after winning Pitch Night, her business has “exploded” as people have gotten to know her name and the bakery.
“Professionally, it is the biggest, best, most gracious opportunity I’ve ever had,” Zych said.
The building’s façade used to have bricked-up sections of former windows facing State Road 9. Now, the storefront has two large windows, and Zych intends to install a new glass front door. Inside, Zych said the bakery will have a small kitchen in the back and an open cafe seating area in the front. She’s also hoping to expose some of the interior brick by removing drywall, embracing the building’s history.
Zych said she plans to partner with Porter Books and Bread, a cafe in Fort Harrison, to roast coffee in house. Zych said the bakery doesn’t have a set grand opening, but they hope to before the holidays.
Greenfield will host a downtown ribbon cutting with OCRA officials at 5 p.m. Wednesday to celebrate the project.