Residents of Fremont (pop. 26,397) are enthusiastic about revitalizing their downtown, whose aging buildings have been in need of renovation. In May 2011, the City applied for and received funding from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Downtown Revitalization Program. The CDBG Downtown Revitalization Program features two components: Phase I Planning, and Phase II Implementation. In Phase I the City was awarded $30,000 to complete a downtown plan, which was completed by Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture of Omaha. They were assisted by a local steering committee, Main Street Fremont, and the Downtown Improvement District. CDBG funds for Phase I were matched at 25% by the Fremont and Dodge County Visitors Bureau and the Downtown Improvement District. The project will have more than 25,000 beneficiaries, including more than 9,500 low-to-moderate income residents.
Fremont has been working to improve the downtown area over the past two decades, and Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture incorporated these previous efforts into their plan. The plan concluded with five general themes for redeveloping the downtown: public improvements, use of upper floors, a downtown learning community, restaurants and entertainment, and modification to codes and ordinances.
The Phase II award will include $350,000 to implement elements of the downtown plan. The City of Fremont will provide a 25% minimal match for funds. The focus of this phase will be façade improvements, which emerged as a priority of highest concern during the planning phase. Additional issues to be addressed include items, such as fire sprinklers, energy efficiency, and handicap accessibility.
Fremont is working to get a head start on the 24-month window for implementing the grant. The first step is to inform local business and property owners of the grant money coming in and how it can help them. Since there are several potential stakeholders, the steering committee will have to hold an application process for property owners to receive grant funding.
In a recent Fremont Tribune article praising the improvements to the downtown district, Downtown Improvement District Chairman Bob Missel said, “A lot of property owners have been very excited about the street development that’s taken place over the course of the last year with the sidewalks and the streetscape renovations. Now [the CDBG Downtown Revitalization Program] is an opportunity to actually put some dollars back into the properties themselves. If you drive downtown, you see right away that there are definitely those properties that can really use this kind of help.”
The steering committee was a driving force in getting the project completed. Members of the community were also instrumental in the process, coming together to voice needs and concerns for their downtown. With the help of CDBG funds, and the dedication of the community, Fremont’s downtown is seeing new life and a clear path into a successful future.