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Downtown Peru continues development

By DANIEL HERDA - dherda@perutribune.com

A facade improvement program designed to spruce up downtown Peru businesses has awarded twice as much money this year than in all of 2016. 

The group awarded $20,000 in matching funds for paint, awnings and other building improvements in 2016. For 2017, that amount has grown to $40,000, according to ReDiscover Downtown Peru President Steve Dobbs.

“The increase shows that people are investing in their hometown,” Dobbs said.

The group will match facade improvements 50 percent up to $5,000. For example, if a business provide $10,000 for improvements, the match is $5,000. If the business provides $5,000 of its own funds, then the match is $2,500.

Downtown businesses can apply for the facade grant by visiting rediscoverdowntownperu.com. All of the money has been allocated for 2017, but more will likely be available for 2018, he said. 

Among those already participating: Arnie’s Ace Hardware, Miles Realty and Lillian’s, he said. 

The City of Peru, the Miami County Economic Development Authority (MCEDA), the Miami County Chamber of Commerce and the Miami County Tourism Bureau have all worked together to make downtown more inviting for business owners, the community and tourists as well, according to Dobbs.

“They are all part of ReDiscover,” Dobbs said. “We are getting to the point where we are collaborating and sharing ideas of things even beyond the facade program. This thing has grown exponentially over the last few years.”

There is a set list of guidelines that the board developed that is universal for all that apply. “We want to stay kind of within the historical guidelines of what the buildings will look like, architecturally,” Dobbs said. “Also, to try to keep a certain color palate so when someone does drive through the downtown, it does look nice.”

ReDiscover Downtown Peru is also trying to make the area more attractive with its “banner program,” Dobbs said.

“Shop Downtown,” “Dine Downtown,” “Experience Downtown,” and “ReDiscover Downtown” banners have been placed all along Broadway and Main Street, with area agencies in charge of rotating the signs based on the seasons.

Other civic or nonprofit organizations that are interested in using some of the banners for an advertisement can also get involved. Dobbs said that a business would have to advertise on at least 10 banners – and the banner would be up for two weeks prior to the event.

“To do it they have to be in accordance with the rules and what the banner program is for,” Dobbs said. “And that application is available on our website and the city’s website.” There’s an application on the ReDiscover website that explains how that process works.

The banners began to appear about four months ago, he said. 

The ReDiscover Downtown Peru Board of Trustees are made up of volunteers, with no paid positions. Their reward, he said, is making the place they love look a little nicer.