City council: Facade grant program presentation given, updates made
City's comprehensive to be updated
ROCHELLE — At its meeting Monday, the Rochelle City Council unanimously approved updates to its facade grant program that will begin in 2024. The program has been in use since 2019 and covers half the cost of improvements to business fronts in the city up to a $5,000 match. $30,000 is spent by the program each year, $15,000 downtown and $15,000 city-wide.
The updates include businesses that received money in the past five years not being eligible for more funds for up to three years, and moving up invoicing to receive reimbursement from Dec. 31 to Nov. 1.
“We typically spend the whole $30,000 budget by June or July because businesses are very grateful for it,” City Community Development Director Michelle Pease said. “We want to continue to spread that grant out to other businesses. We want to get the invoices a couple months earlier so we can process them and it's not an issue for our accounting department and all done by Dec. 31.”
The program is first-come, first serve for eligible improvements. Pease said the city is very fortunate to have business owners that want to invest in improvements.
The program began as downtown-only with $15,000 total funded by the downtown TIF district. It was expanded city-wide two years ago with an additional $15,000 from the city’s general fund.
Pease and Community Development Specialist Michelle Knight also made a presentation during the meeting on the accomplishments of the program. They showed before and after photos of participating building and business owners and detailed improvements they made.
2019 recipients included the downtown Edward Jones, Kennay Farms Distilling, Bills Trading Post and AJ Barone (422 Lincoln Highway, former Off the Wall Cafe site). 2020 recipients included Aldo Barone (430 Lincoln Highway future E's Corner Deli), the Vince Carney Community Theater's Lincoln Arts Center, Artists' Garden and The Rabbit's Foot.
2021 recipients included Newkirk & Associates, Pickin' Station, Cappels Car Care, 926 Custom Embroidery, Cheri Picked Vintage and Anthony Rowley (multi-office space, 1120-1126 Lincoln Highway). 2022 recipients included Hub City Car Wash South, A-1 Hot Body Detailing, Down Range LLC, Fuzion Bar & Grill, AJ Homes and Hicks BBQ and Catering.
“We are very proud of the program and happy to show off its recipients,” Knight said. “I want to thank the mayor and council for your support. And with your continued support, we'll keep making more and more buildings beautiful in the City of Rochelle.”
Mayor John Bearrows said he enjoyed looking back on all of the improvements and check presentations.
“All of the sudden I realized how many times we've presented checks for facade improvements,” Bearrows said. “And you start looking around, and it's pretty amazing. We've had so many comments about how nice the downtown looks and I think a lot of that comes from facade work. We have a community that we can be extremely proud of. Each and every one of our staff members put their whole heart into this community. I think it shows in the dedication and work they put into projects like this and more.”
The city will be working on an update to its comprehensive plan in the coming months, Pease said. It adopted its first in 1973 and its most recent update was in 2016 while working with Teska & Associates.
The comprehensive plan is intended to provide a framework for future development and revitalization based on existing conditions, trends, goals and objectives. The plan is updated every 5-7 years.
The city has hired Teska & Associates to assist with a revision to the 2016 plan. Teska and Associates has worked closely with the city on its last three or four updates. The total estimated fee is approximately $9,560, and will include four workshops, one public hearing and all required text revisions identified within the plan.
Review committee members for the plan will include Bearrows, Councilwoman Kate Shaw-Dickey, Planning & Zoning Commissioner Claude McKibben and City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh.
“We wanted to make you aware that we're getting started on that process and all those workshops will go through the planning & zoning commission,” Pease said. “The first one is Monday, March 6.”
Fiegenschuh said the main document that comes out of the comprehensive plan is the land use map.
“That map sets the tone for where we grow and how we grow,” Fiegenschuh said. “So it's very important that we get community input, because it does affect people's lives. Hopefully we have a lot of public input.”
State of the Community
On Thursday, March 2 at 6 p.m., Bearrows and Fiegenschuh will present the city’s annual State of the Community address at City Hall. The address will also be live streamed on the city’s Facebook page.
Lucky Hub Dash
The council unanimously approved a special event request for the Rochelle Chamber of Commerce's Lucky Hub Dash that will take place Saturday, March 11. Registration will start at 11 a.m. and the race starts at noon. It will start and stop in the Holcomb Bank parking lot on Illinois Route 38.