Revitalize Ontario! Successfully Navigates the Grant Process
By Charlotte Fugate, President of Revitalize Ontario!, an Oregon Main Street network community and recipient of a 2016 Oregon Heritage Diamonds in the Rough Grant
Ontario is a small rural community of about 11,500 and we rely on agriculture for our main industry. We border the Snake River and Idaho and we are on the far eastern side of the state. The town was platted in 1883 just after the railroad came to Oregon. Two years ago we organized a grass root group, Revitalize Ontario!, to develop and promote a healthy prosperous downtown within the context of cultural and historic preservation. To this end we started working with Oregon’s Main Street Program.
After setting our boundaries and phases, we formally joined Main Street as an “Exploring Downtown” member. We identified a cluster of large buildings in the core of our old town, two were in good shape, the third not so much. We selected the “not so much” building, the Lackey Building, to revive because it would have the biggest impact in enhancing our
historical downtown. We leveraged three different grants, including Oregon Heritage’s Diamonds in the Rough Grant, to take the building back to 1967 (although the Lackey Building was built in 1906). We couldn’t afford to take it back any further but felt we would preserve the building for future generations and the bones would be visible once again.
The grant application was relatively easy to fill out. I would suggest that you review what information is required before tackling the process and try to gather as much of the information as possible before starting. Kuri Gill, the Grant and Outreach Coordinator, was always available and walked us through the process. When our application was completed, Sheri Stuart, the Oregon Main Street Coordinator, reviewed our application and made a few suggestions that made our efforts more cohesive. The most difficult part was gathering old photos to show examples of our goals. Fortunately, a business that occupied the building in 1967 had an extensive photo album which they shared with us. We waited with great anticipation for the grant committee to review our application, then came the announcement… we were selected!
In the next few weeks we awarded the bids, set the construction schedule, and had a meeting with the major contractors and volunteers. We didn’t get off to a very good start since the volunteer who was going to demolition all the faux shingles and faux brick decided that he needed to be paid. We figured we could make that up with having volunteers do some of the paid tasks. We had to borrow $10,000 from the bank to cover one of the contractor’s bills, since they wanted to be paid when their work was complete. We had a visit near the project’s completion from Oregon Heritage’s Restoration Specialist, Joy Sears, to see our finished project and she was very pleased.
We completed our façade grant in four months (coming in under budget) and sent in our final report along with copies of invoices, receiving a reimbursement check within three weeks. I can’t praise the Oregon Heritage grant staff enough. They were helpful, encouraging, conscientious and really cared about our mission. A great group to work with! As for the Ontario community, we get accolades every day for the beautiful building and the improvements to the downtown. We have had several more downtown businesses take applications for city facade grants and have had one building owner inquire about the process to get their building on the National Historical Register. We are on our way!
Oregon Heritage has 5 grants currently open for applications, including a new grant only available to communities in the Oregon Main Street network. For more information visit here. There are several free upcoming grant workshops available across the state. Visit the calendar to find one near you. You can also contact Kuri Gill, Grants and Outreach Coordinator, at Kuri.Gill@oregon.gov or (503) 986-0685.