It’s been a long and sometimes grueling process, but the City of Elko’s redevelopment program is finally getting off the ground.
The Redevelopment Agency approved four storefront projects this week, in which the City will provide matching grant money raised from taxes within the redevelopment district. Of course, $66,000 doesn’t go far in the construction business, but at least it’s a start.
By far the most involved and interesting project to receive funds is the Hesson’s Hardware Building on Commercial Street. Renovations are already underway on this historic structure, and the goal of owner Jeff Dalling is to return it to its former glory – complete with the original hardware store sign that was kept preserved by Northeastern Nevada Museum.
After his success renovating what is now the Coffee Mug, we look forward to seeing the results. The RDA is contributing $25,000 toward what Dalling says will be a million-dollar project. He plans to open a banquet hall on the lower floor and rent office spaces upstairs. When completed, the currently unoccupied 111-year-old building at the corner of Sixth Street will be an asset that helps pull together the downtown corridor.
A block away, at Fifth and Commercial streets, J.M. Capriola will be getting more than $5,000 to help with remodeling of its storefront. Capriola’s has its own long history in downtown Elko, continuing the tradition of handcrafted western gear. This store is an asset not only for northeastern Nevadans, it’s also a destination for some movie stars and top country musicians such as Charlie Daniels.
Another building packed with history is the old Pioneer Hotel. The nonprofit Western Folklife Center will receive $20,000 for replacement of the 62 windows in the 104-year-old structure. The Folklife Center is home to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and a cornerstone of the downtown district with its year-round gift shop, art gallery, saloon and theater.
The fourth grant recipient is the Gerber Law Offices at Fourth and Court streets, which was once the home of the Elko Daily Free Press. The building was renovated into office space in the early 1990s, and the $15,000 grant will go toward giving the stucco façade some “architectural depth” as well as steel awnings and better outdoor lighting.
The RDA’s current storefront budget is only $50,000 a year, so part of this year’s funding is borrowing from the future. Other applicants that did not receive grants have also proposed worthwhile projects that could be funded in coming years – such as the old NV Energy headquarters, which is being remodeled into the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum.
The first stages of the City’s redevelopment program began in 1981 and it took until 2007 before a formal plan was adopted. Another 10 years later and we are starting to see actual work getting done.
The challenges ahead seem daunting, particularly because of the loss of downtown businesses in recent years. The RDA will only be successful to the extent that private business owners are willing to invest their time and money in improving their properties.
Congratulations to the grant recipients, and may they inspire more business owners to step forward and help turn the tide in downtown Elko’s favor.