As the city prepares to authorize another $50,000 in federal grant money to rehabilitate commercial districts in the city, renovations continue on a Main Street building once owned by the Masonic Building and Investment company and later sold to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, both civic organizations the late Harry S Truman once belonged to.

As the city prepares to authorize another $50,000 in federal grant money to rehabilitate commercial districts in the city, renovations continue on a Main Street building once owned by the Masonic Building and Investment company and later sold to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, both civic organizations the late Harry S Truman once belonged to.

The Portrait Gallery with Photography by Karen, 124 South Main St., is part of a plan to redevelop the aesthetics of the Independence Square commercial area, one of four districts targeted by city officials to benefit from a commercial facade improvement program.

The facade program, funded by a community development block grant, also includes the Maywood, Englewood and Fairmount commercial districts.

During a presentation Monday night to the Independence City Council, attorney Brad Constance said the block grants are U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds awarded to Independence annually to revitalize neighborhoods, expand affordable housing and economic opportunities, and/or improve community facilities and services.

The city is expecting more than $700,000 in CDBG funds for the 2009-10 fiscal year, Constance said, with $50,000 earmarked for the facade program.

Karen and David Hacker of Independence have owned The Portrait Gallery building for close to nine years. With the use of private and CFIP funds, the couple is remodeling the second floor of the historic registry property, replacing 24 second-floor aluminum windows with energy efficient units that comply with state historic preservation standards.

“We are hoping to restore (the second floor) to the way it looked in 1906,” Karen Hacker said.

Hacker said The Portrait Gallery has been working with city officials for two years to complete the process of applying for and receiving the CFIP funds. After the city approved a $25,000 contract in November 2007 to assist with the rehabilitation of the property, the city council in January approved an amended contract worth $10,000 to meet certain historic requirements for renovating the building.

According to city officials, the city’s investment in the project is being leveraged with $6,000 in donated construction labor to install the new windows and the Hackers anticipate investing more than $10,000 for the window replacements.

Prior to participating in the commercial facade program, the Hackers personally invested more than $116,000 for structural repair of the building and renovation of the first floor, which included extensive masonry repair, new storefront awnings and entrance improvements.

“(The city) has been great,” Karen Hacker said. “They have communicated with us very well and encouraged us to move forward. It’s been a long road, but it is well worth it.”

At last week’s City Council meeting – where the council unanimously approved to the Hackers an additional $7,000 in grant funds – Council Member Jim Page said the building’s renovation will add to the ambiance of the famed Independence Square.

“This is just one more thing to make our Square a prettier place to come into,” Page said.

Karen Hacker said the Truman connection is not the only connection she has found with the building.

“I’ve recently found out that my grandfather was a member of the Eagles and that my grandmother was a member of the Auxiliary,” she said. “Knowing Harry S Truman used to play pool in this building... we have found some historical things written about him in several newspapers since we have been remodeling, which is really kind of cool.”

Commercial Facade Improvement Program
According to the city of Independence’s Web site, stated in the Commercial Facade Improvement Program policies and procedures manual: “the CFIP makes available dollar-for-dollar matching grants, up to a maximum grant of $25,000… With the approval of the City Council, matching grants in excess of $25,000 may be awarded to projects that satisfy one or more of the following criteria:

The project will leverage additional funding towards the building rehabilitation from state and/or federal Investment tax credit programs.

 

The owner/tenant is contributing a monetary investment of at least 50 percent of the total county assessed market value to the rehabilitation of the building.

 

The size/extent of the building’s primary façade comprises at least 30 percent, measured by linear feet of frontage, of the contiguous streetscape.


Projects that satisfy more than one of the above criteria may be given priority consideration for available funding.”