GARDINER — When it comes to replacing the awnings and lights at his business, Alan Aronson will take what help he can find.

As the owner of Spruce it Up Services, a facilities maintenance company in at 307 Water St., Aronson submitted an application to Gardiner’s Façade Committee to be considered for a façade improvement grant. He was awarded nearly $700 for his project.

“Things are so expensive,” Aronson said, particularly hiring contractors.

He’s one of 14 business or property owners to receive the promise of funds to help defray the costs of fixing up the exterior of their buildings in Gardiner’s historic downtown.

More than a year ago, city officials submitted an application for $140,000 to the state Department of Economic and Community Development for funding through the Community Development Block Grant program’s Microenterprise Program for façade improvements. The program’s goal is to eliminate slum and blight in communities.

State economic development officials initially rejected the application, but later reversed their decision. After the Gardiner City Council voted in August to accept the funds, a committee was appointed to oversee their administration.

The committee awarded $122,634 in projects. The balance of the funding will be used to pay an architect who is expected to help facilitate the projects and the bid process.

Aronson said Mary Lou Zdanovich, his mother-in-law and owner of the building at 299-307 Water St., also secured funding through the program, $2,000 to pay for painting, glass and lighting repair.

It’s one of the larger buildings on Water Street, Aronson said, and it appears the previous owners didn’t do much with it. They want to improve the building’s front.

Aronson said he’s seen the power of a program like this at work before in a Boston neighborhood where the city worked to improve storefronts and it revived the community.

The awards range from Aronson’s relatively modest $700 project to $17,700 to Gardiner District 1 City Councilor Terry Berry to help pay for front windows, a door and roof at his recently acquired building at 251 Water St.; it was one of the buildings damaged in the July 2015 downtown fire that remained standing and had stood vacant with water damage in the fire’s aftermath.

“It’s good to see the funds were used to help bring that building back to use,” said Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street, which has acquired a historic block of buildings to renovate.

“I was impressed by the volume of response,” Wright said. “I think it speaks to the level of engagement of the property owners here.”

Half of the applicants are business owners who own their building; the other half are landlords who rent to business owners.

The money will be used to help pay for roofs, windows and façade improvements. Where applicable, the projects will undergo review by the Historic Preservation Commission.

“I have a brand-new appreciation for the challenges associated with owning a historic building,” Wright said.

“Whenever you have a downtown like ours that has had an extended period of challenging economic times, one of the easiest things to do is defer maintenance,” he said. “We had a (building) envelope assessment done 15 years ago, and a lot of the issues identified that time still haven’t been addressed.”

The value in this program is not in the boost in the worth of real estate, it’s in keeping buildings in Gardiner’s downtown healthy, he said. That’s important because of the concentration of tax valuation in downtown Gardiner.

Under the terms of the program, the work has to be completed by the end of the year.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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