Five projects were given a total of $200,000 through the Urban Renewal Agency for the annual Call for Projects.
The program was designed to focus on buildings in the Urban Renewal District that need to be revitalized. Grants are awarded to businesses that meet certain criteria: revitalize downtown; create high-quality family wage jobs; provide retail development, housing, transportation or community facilities.
The Urban Renewal Commission weighs successful applications on a point system. Preference is given to projects with a business plan that shows promise as a viable for-profit business, projects that revitalize the Central Business District, projects with a job creation component and projects that reduce blight.
Generally, the maximum amount of money a project can receive is $75,000 and the minimum grant is $5,000.
Notable projects that have received Call for Project money in the past include The Landing Hotel, the Market Place and the current IOOF building renovation, which will create apartments in the downtown area.
Texaco Station — $50,000
Gust Tsiatsos, owner of The Landing Hotel, received $50,000 for a business at the Texaco Station, across from the hotel on Adams Avenue. The project will convert the historic gas station property, preserving its uniqueness, into a for-profit business that will add five hotel rooms, a coffee shop and a meeting room to the downtown area.
The coffee shop will offer light food, and the garage bays will be used to create a meeting place for Eastern Oregon University — connecting the downtown area with the university. There will also be a three-story expansion to the west end of the property, which will be a boutique hotel, a multipurpose room that will primarily be used by EOU and a deck area that can be used for events.
According to the Call for Projects packet, the old Texaco station is one of the very few remaining “kit” stations left in the country.
The total cost estimate for the project is more than $600,000. The gas pumps will need to be removed and the area where the pumps were located will need to be enclosed. There are grants Tsiatsos will apply for to go toward the construction.
LT Development, LLC — $50,000
Dale and Virginia Mammen were approved for $50,000 to restore the C.D. Putnam’s Ready Wear building, at 1012 Adams Avenue, to expand the current Kneads Bakery, located across the street. Besides expanding the bakery, the project will also add a restaurant and bar, plus an additional apartment above the business. The business will likely accommodate nine full-time employees.
The building is in very poor shape, according to the packet. Two-thirds of the top floor is currently unusable.
The total cost estimate for the project is more than $380,000.
Kehr Chiropractic, Inc. — $50,000
Jason and Benedicte Kehr will be expanding two businesses with the $50,000 they were awarded from the URA. The project, located at 1802 Fourth St., will create a state-of-the-art postural, correctional and functional rehab center integrated with an established CrossFit facility specializing in functional fitness, according to its packet.
The postural correction and rehab center will provide digital x-ray spinal analysis, specific therapeutic and rehab options to prevent long-term degenerative health conditions. The gym would be a relocation of an existing business in Island City.
The project’s total estimated cost is $343,000.
Valley Veterinary Care — $35,000
The Rooster Peak Professional building, 401 Adams Ave., will receive $35,000 for structural upgrades to allow for an expansion of Valley Veterinary Care.
The proposal’s Call for Projects packet noted the building is one of the first things you see when coming into La Grande on western Adams Avenue. URA staff said in the packet that revitalizing the exterior of the building may encourage the neighboring buildings to invest in improvements.
Dr. Jeff Henry purchased the building in 2016. He remodeled the interior and moved his business to the new location in April 2017, which allowed him to add staff, including two veterinary assistants and a vet tech. He stated in the packet that he plans to hire one more veterinarian, another vet tech and a vet assistant.
The project has an estimated start date for construction in August and will take a year to complete. The total estimated cost for the project is $140,111.
Direct Music Source — $15,000
Anthony and Margaret Corig received $15,000 to expand Direct Music Source, the business they’ve had for 15 years. The retail space will be expanded, and the business will have room to offer more music lessons and hold events once the project is completed. The building they are expanding into has been vacant for 12 years.
The strength of this project, according to its packet, is that Direct Music Source is an established and successfully run business in the downtown area that attracts visitors from a tri-county area. The business has the potential to attract overnight tourists through clinics and workshops that are not offered elsewhere in Eastern Oregon.
Direct Music Source currently has more than 6,000 customers a year, gives music lesson to 50 students and has a waiting list, according to the packet. Those numbers support the need for adding staff. The total estimated cost for the project is $73,800.