December 03, 2001 11:00 pm

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

The La Grande City Council appears on the verge of awarding a $40,000 grant for developing a downtown antique mall.

At the conclusion of a council work session Monday, during which various types of funding sources were discussed, the consensus of the council was that Calvin and Sharon Dykes should be awarded the grant to begin work on the upper floors of their building at 1301 Adams Ave. They have operated Good Things for six years in the building.

One of the oldest and tallest in town, the building is on the National Historic Register.

By law, the council cannot take a vote in a work session, but the issue is on the agenda for Wednesday nights regular council meeting.

We have a track record, Sharon Dykes said after the meeting, as she indicated she was pleased with the councils consensus.

I think the council has to work to ensure that theyre spending peoples money wisely.

We have a workable project, she said. If we get the grant, were ready to begin work immediately on rehabilitation of the building.

Getting this grant would ensure bank loans to help with the project, she said.

The couples plans call for development of what they will call The La Grande Antique Mall beginning on the second floor of their building and extending in the future to the third and fourth floors.

They want to repair the buildings roof, restore second-floor walls, build interior wall dividers, clean and seal the buildings exterior, paint over the exterior with a brick color, paint two murals on the Elm Street side of the building and restore canopy lighting.

This project will cost more than $200,000. Were going to put in a small restaurant, a little cafe that wont compete with nearby restaurants. In fact, we expect it to provide a spillover to other restaurants.

They would lease space to antique dealers and sell their wares, Sharon Dykes said. Good Things would hire the staff to sell the goods, provide advertising and utilities, hire the sales staff.

We need to do something to enhance the downtown shopping. I want to see the city thrive. We are losing retail business downtown. We want to try something that will draw people downtown, including people off the freeway, Sharon Dykes said.

Shawn Mangum of Edward Jones Investments at 1212 Adams Ave., spoke in support of the project, saying, Whatever happens (with the citys decision on funding) will set the tone for future requests.

Doug Campbell of McGlassons Stationery at 1210 Adams Ave. told the council the grant would provide a great draw for downtown. It would be a good investment.

Calvin Dykes said the work could begin in January and we can have the second floor occupied by the end of next summer.

He said they have a commitment from a bank for a loan and that amount would be increased if they could get the grant.

While the city has only $50,000 in the fund, which is derived from the collection of room taxes, councilors appeared willing to award the full $40,000 the Dykeses requested, noting that no one else has come forward with any requests.

After a lengthy discussion Monday by the council and supporters of the project, City Manager Wes Hare said he would develop criteria for the city to award grants from its Emerging Opportunities Fund and from other funding sources the city hopes to provide to future applicants seeking to rehabilitate the downtown area.

The criteria will require applicants to provide a contract to protect the citys interests in the grants or loans and to provide some type of matching funds. Applicants must show a job-creation element in the application and indicate that the money will be used for more than a faade or facelift on a building. Applicants must have a track record to succeed.

Hare indicated the city will once again seek a grant of $100,000 from the Northeast Oregon Alliance to help fund further downtown economic development projects with a revolving loan fund. The city would add $100,000 in matching funds. If the NEOA award is not forthcoming, the city could still set up a fund of $100,000, Hare said.