- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) - One storefront at a time, a grant program from Main Street Greenwood is giving the south end of downtown a face-lift.

The program offers businesses and building owners along Carrollton Avenue and Johnson Street substantial help in sprucing up the facades of their building.

The program is an extension of restoration efforts that Main Street has been subsidizing for some 18 years.

The Crystal Grill and The Winery at Williams Landing completed major projects in the last year thanks to the Carrollton-Johnson program. Brantley Snipes, Main Street Greenwood’s executive director, said another business Perry’s Furniture on Carrollton Avenue is already signed up for 2014.

Snipes said a local community member, who asked to remain anonymous, made a $50,000 donation to fund renovations specifically on Johnson and Carrollton, which the city of Greenwood matched with its own $20,000 contribution.

“That was used as seed money to get a larger $240,000 grant from the Foundation for the Mid-South,” she said.

Marion Howard, who served as interim director of Main Street before Snipes‘ hiring, said the grant from the Foundation for the Mid-South came in 2008, but it was several more years before work on the program got started.

“I was determined not to let this grant go,” Howard said.

The focus on those two streets, Snipes said, was because, while other parts of downtown had received significant private investment in recent years, the south end of downtown was somewhat neglected.

“That’s historically the African-American part of town, and it hadn’t received a lot of attention or had a lot of investment put into it,” she said.

Trish Perry, owner of Perry’s Pawn and Furniture, said she was still finishing up the grant application but hoped to use the funds to replace the windows on the second floor of the Perry’s Furniture building.

Perry said she’d also like to carry out work on the adjacent Perry’s Pawn building, but that building is owned by Dr. Arnold Smith and she’s been unable to negotiate with him. Smith is being held at the Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield after being declared unfit to stand trial last month on charges stemming from an alleged 2012 murder-for-hire scheme.

Johnny Ballas, owner of the Crystal Grill, said the Main Street grant of $8,000 ended up covering about a third of the project’s cost.

“We’re pleased with it,” Ballas said. “It looks nice, and we’ve had a lot of good comments about the refurbishing.”

Ballas said the restaurant redid all the windows on the building, repainted the front and painted the brick exterior for the first time. The contractor also located an antique wooden door in the old Antoon’s Dry Goods Store building that got included in the renovation.

The door once led to a physician’s upstairs office downtown, but workmen refinished and reinforced the door, which is now part of the Crystal Grill’s main entrance.

“It matches the antique doors we have in the front,” Ballas said. “We’re also having a sign made. I don’t know when that work will be completed, but we’re recreating our old Crystal Grill sign that was up in the ‘50s and ‘60s.”

Ballas said the facade work was something he had on the back burner for quite some time, but the grant helped inspire him to carry out more extensive renovations.

“We’ve done some work in the past, but we never went to the extent we did this time,” Ballas said. “We decided that since we were going to get a little grant money, we’d spend some of our money to get the total look back.”

Spurring that kind of restoration is what Snipes said Main Street Greenwood was looking for when it launched the Carrollton-Johnson program.

“The facade is the eye-catching part of the building and really helps improve the overall look and vitality of the area,” Snipes said. “People start to take interest and start to invest. It’s supposed to be a jumping-off point.”

Lonnie Bailey, owner of The Winery at Williams Landing, which opened in November in the old firehouse at Main Street and Carrollton Avenue, said the grant money helped cover the cost of refurbishing the historic but dilapidated building he acquired from the city in 2012.

“It’s a great program. It’s really good for downtown Greenwood,” said Bailey, who is also an attorney. “I’ve lived here 31 years, and downtown wasn’t nearly as attractive as it is now.”

Ballas said he was excited to see other buildings along the street refurbished as well. He joked that Carrollton Avenue needs to keep up with Howard Street, which has undergone extensive restoration in the last several years, some of which also benefited from a separate Main Street facade program.

“We want to keep up with our image and our look,” Ballas said. “They’re going to finish the block, which is nice. We’ll get the look all the way down the street.”

Main Street awards grants of $8,000 to buildings along Johnson and Carrollton, provided the applicant agrees to put up at least $2,000 in funding or in-kind contributions.

The program is significantly more generous than Main Street’s longest-standing grant program, which was established shortly after the nonprofit was founded in 1996. That program offers $1,000 grants to any building within downtown Greenwood for work on the building’s front. Downtown Rentals on Main Street has been the latest recipient to receive one of these grants for work scheduled for this year.

By sprucing up the look of buildings throughout downtown, Bailey said he thought the Main Street programs were going a long way toward revitalizing the area.

“The streets just look nicer,” Bailey said. “When the buildings are attractive, people don’t mind walking around down here.”


Information from: The Greenwood Commonwealth, https://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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