GARDINER — For weeks, scaffolding and hydraulic lifts on Water Street have signaled an unusual level of construction activity.

Many of the projects are part of the city’s facade improvement program, funded by a $140,000 Community Development Block Grant’s Microenterprise Program and the work funded by the program is expected to wrap up by the end of the month.

“Things look great,” Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street, said.

Kaleb Burbank, of Jacob’s Glass, tears out the frames of old windows to install new Pella replacement windows in second floor office about Ragamuffin’s on May 16 along the one-way section of Water Street in downtown Gardiner. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Just over a year ago, 14 businesses were awarded grants under the program to help defray the costs of fixing up the exteriors of downtown buildings, including replacing roofs, removing modernization efforts and restoring doors, windows and trim.

The goal of the program is to give business and property owners an incentive to invest in improving their buildings. The money wasn’t free; property owners had to match grant funds, in some cases by paying for another facade improvement.

Particularly with old buildings, Wright said, what gets taken care of are the most urgent things. By allowing projects to be leveraged with other work, owners can do other things they have put off for some time.

For the Gardiner Public Library, the program was a chance to find funds to replace some of the building’s windows. While the library is a department of city government, the building is owned and maintained by the Gardiner Library Association.

“In my opinion, it’s really a beacon of downtown,” Anne Davis, director of the Gardiner Public Library and interim Gardiner city manager, said.

“My predecessor did great things in making this a regional library,” Davis said, “but the building needed a lot of help.”

That help extends to a number of library windows that are currently covered in plywood. When the historic windows are restored and reinstalled, she said, they will be working windows, able to open in the summer and close in the winter.

“When you are caring for a building that’s 138 years old, everything is twice as expensive,” she said.

Kaleb Burbank, of Jacob’s Glass, tears out the frames of old windows to install new Pella replacement windows in second floor office about Ragamuffin’s on May 16 along the one way section of Water Street in downtown Gardiner. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Grants were also awarded to Gardiner Main Street for a roof at its properties at 149 Water St., to Janet Slade for window replacement at 327 Water St., to Peter and Mary Ann Johnson for a roof replacement at 259 Water St., and to Clare Marron and Peter Maylon for a roof and facade restoration at 263 Water St., among others.

A portion of the grant, about $16,000, was set aside for architectural services and bidding costs. That left $124,000 for projects, but because some property owners elected not to move forward with their projects, only about $107,000 was spent.

The remaining $14,000 is available to address change orders and problems that contractors may have discovered during the process of getting the work done.

“We’ve had a couple of change orders so far,” Wright said. “Knock on wood there’s nothing catastrophic.”

If funds are still left over when the work is completed, the city’s facade grant committee will consider what to do with those, he said.

“This sends a good message,” Wright said. “The message would be that Gardiner is vibrant enough that people what to invest in their buildings and improve them, which is the whole idea of the grant.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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