By Bob Balgemann


First of three parts 

The city for a number of years has provided funding to help owners of historic buildings downtown make needed improvements to those structures. 

This year $19,290 was set aside for the Downtown Facade Improvement Grant Program, with that money coming from video gaming revenues. On April 8, 2021, City Planning staff sent out information to 113 eligible property owners, reminding them of the program. 

A total of 14 applications were received, with projects ranging from new windows to brick repair to accessibility improvements. 

The Belvidere Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) met June 24 giving priority to accessibility renovations due to not only their safety aspects, but the total costs of the projects. Ultimately, varied amounts of financial support were given to 12 of the proposed projects. 

Community Development Planner Gina DelRose explained that planning staff and the HPC act as recommending bodies to the city council for this program. Council may lower the amount of funding, she said, or approve only a portion of the applications, as it sees fit.

The requests 

Here are the 12 requests that were recommended for funding: 

• 106 S. State St., new metal roof (wanted to repaint but could not get a quote), requested funding, $2,250, planning staff and HPC combined, recommended funding amount $1,500. 

• 320 N. State St., historic door restoration, requested funding, $1,750, combined funding total, $1,140. 

• 101 N. State St., restore original door that now is boarded up, requested funding, $907, recommended funding total, $900. 

• 112-128 S. State St., replace building walkways for Americans With Disabilities Act with accessible walkways, requested funding, $7,500, recommended funding total, $2,500. 

• 124 N. State St., replace windows that are not visible to the public, requested funding, $1,975, recommended funding total, $1,000. 

• 203 Logan Ave., wheelchair lift and exterior painting, requested funding, $11,842, recommended funding total, $5,000. 

• 124 Buchanan St., new windows, requested funding, $3,000, recommended funding total, $1,500. 

• 215-217 N. State St., replace windows, requested funding, $4,450, recommended funding total, $750. (HPC denied request). 

• 426 S. State St., restore original windows and improve accessibility to the restaurant, requested funding, $5,000, recommended funding total, $1,000.

• 409 S. State St., improve front facade of the building, requested funding, $1,610, recommended funding total, $1,000. 

* 410 S. State St., improve front facade and energy use of the building, requested funding, $3,033, recommended funding total, $1,000. 

• 520 Pearl St., repair concrete staircase at the main entrance to the apartment building, requested funding, $7,500, recommended funding total, $2,000. (Received $1,000 from HPC in 2016. Was denied request by HPC in 2019 and directed to apply for this grant instead). 

The 12 applicants requested a total reimbursement of $53,839, with staff/HPC recommending $19,290 in total funding for the projects.

Those requests being denied by staff and the HPC were: 

• 501 S. State St., new windows and exterior painting, requested funding of $2,825. Rationale included “does not state if windows are the same; does not state what kind of windows; does not state paint colors; does not provide paint estimate.” 

• 113 S. Locust St., new siding, requested funding $4,540. Comments included, “Due to the amount of grant applications received, staff prioritized those projects focused on restoring facade features on more visible properties, correctly altered facade features, or improving accessibility.” 


During the July 12 Committee of the Whole meeting, DelRose explained there were two ways of looking at how to best utilize the available dollars for the grants. One was to spread the money out to as many projects as possible, and hope it encouraged the applicants to move forward with their proposals. The other was to take a few of the top priorities and give them the full available amount. 

“Staff always goes for spreading the money out,” she said. “HPC stayed with the staff recommendations.” 

Alderman Marsha Freeman raised a question about the Pearl Place Apartments project at 520 Pearl St., located in the former, historic Belvidere High School building. 

“I looked at what they’re doing and it’s basically stripping and re-staining,” she said. “I’m not sure doing that will make them (doors) functional and usable.” 

DelRose replied that what staff and the HPC were looking for were safety improvements, adding that the apartments were “age-restrictive housing.” 

After more discussion, the committee, in a unanimous, voice vote, recommended approval of the staff/HPC selections for funding under the 2021 Downtown Facade Improvement Grant Program. The recommendation was referred to the July 19 city council meeting for consideration. 

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