While discussing the final round of Preservation and Community Enhancement Program (PACE) grant applications for 2021 on Wednesday, Madison Mayor Bob Courtney noted it’s been a phenomenal year in terms of what has been achieved by the program.

Courtney said the city has provided $407,000 in matching funds along with $183,000 in county dollars to stimulate about $2 million in private investment — much of that in blighted neighborhoods.

“2021 has been our largest investment year and return in the program’s history,” Courtney said. “It’s about half-a-million dollars that has produced $2 million in private investment,”

He noted that’s about a 4-to-1 ratio and the return has been “a game-changer for us” in terms of “our broader blight elimination plan.” He cited PACE as the key ingredient because it leverages public dollars with private investment.

“As you look at all the homes that have been rehabilitated across the community, it’s making a tremendous difference across the community, Courtney said, noting the benefits of increased property values and a reduction in crime as blighted areas see investment and improvement.

“That’s why we are so grateful for everybody who is making a personal investment in rehabilitating these properties because it has a dramatic impact on the neighborhoods,” Courtney said. “The city is continuing to make an investment in its goal for a clean, safe, beautiful Madison, and while we have one end of the spectrum which is incentives, the other end of the spectrum is code enforcement.”

Courtney said Madison does have properties that are “dilapidated, dangerous, unsafe, unkempt where we have not been able to attract the right partnership from an incentive perspective. The city has been lagging for years in regards to code enforcement” but that will be a priority for the city in 2022 and is part of the city’s more comprehensive blight elimination plan along with continuing to provide incentives for city residents to rehabilitate structures.

He said the work will target homes on the hilltop and downtown. “Most people don’t think about the hilltop being historic but there are now a lot of older homes up there now that are 50 to 75 years old. Some of them are in different states of condition” ... “having a strategy that’s city-wide is great for the city.”

On Wednesday four PACE applications were approved by the PACE board with recommendation for final approval from the Board of Public Works and Safety at its meeting on Monday. Nicole Schell, director of planning, noted that each of the four properties scored high enough to qualify for the matching grant, and with just $111,000 available in PACE funding, there was sufficient money to fund the more than $60,000 requested.

The PACE board approved two dilapidated structure grants for $25,000 each — one from Chad Gray at 124 East Street and another from Cynthia Stewart at 812 Walnut Street for $25,000. Both will be doing exterior work, but also structural and interior work in order to make the building safer.

The board also approved an application for $5,045 by Georgia Hall for work on a house at 506 Jefferson Street and a $5,750 Dangerous Structure Grant for Scott Axline to demolish a building at 707 Walnut Street. Schell said that is the first property in the city to receive the grant for demolishing an unsafe building, which include an agreement to rebuild.

Axline talked about the poor condition of the 707 Walnut Street home. “That house has got to come down,” Axline said, noting “If I took four of my big buddies out there, we could push that house over. I’ve never even walked all the way back through that house because about half-way through I’m afraid of falling through the floor.”

“It’s going to be a good project,” PACE Chairman Bill Ohlendorf said. “The area is going to like to see that structure gone, and then to have the new building that’s going to be nice, too.”

Axline said he plans to replace the existing structure with a 1,000-square--foot, two-bedroom, two-bath shotgun-style residence in a more contemporary design.

“My wife and I have bought and rehabbed properties that are historic for 30 years,” Axline said, noting they moved to Madison two years ago and also own the house 713 Walnut.

“If you drive down Walnut Street, it’s got some of the best architecture in town. It can be a beautiful street,” said Axline. “In those two or three blocks, there looks to be six rehabs going on which is great ... It has a bright future. In five years, you won’t recognize that street, but these derelict properties have to be taken care of ... That’s what we do, we fix homes. We’ve been doing it for years.”

Courtney thanked Axline for taking on the property at 707 Walnut Street. “We hope that you can acquire the property next door because that is in desperate need of a restoration as well,” he said, noting that Walnut Street is a targeted revitalization area by the city. “There’s beautiful architecture down there.”

Link Ludington represented Stewart, a Madison native who lives in Fort Myers, Florida, in her application at 812 Walnut Street as he is working as an advisor in rehabilitation work at the property.

“I think this is another good application in an area that needs the investment,” said Courtney.

Ludington said the house not only has structural issues, but also much work is need in the interior. “Until I went inside I had no conception” of the poor condition, said Ludington, adding the home had been vacant for many years.

Ludington said plans for the exterior rehabilitation call for original features to be reinstated after the exterior had been altered during a modernization. He said there is a 1988 photo in which the home still had its original windows and the stick-style detail on the front porch, but then it “went downhill from that point on.” The plan is to replicate the original exterior appearance as much as possible.

“When all of that gets done, that’s going to be beautiful along there,” Ohlendorf said, looking at photos of the structures.

Gray said three-quarters of the house at 124 East Street will be demolished including an unusable front portion. He is keeping the rear two-story portion of the building — the camelback portion of the shotgun house — and will be rebuilding the front single story portion with a new structure to be built in the rear, already approved by the Historic District Board of Review.

“Thank you for making some great investments across downtown, and it’s made a difference in neighborhoods.” Courtney said.

Although he has done multiple restorations in downtown Madison, Gray said this is the first time he’s applied for a PACE grant because the timeline didn’t work out on his other projects. “I was in a hurry to get them done and didn’t want to wait,” he said, noting that with the condition of the 124 East Street property it “would be hard to justify” financially doing the work without a PACE grant.

Ohlendorf agreed noting that even with PACE the property “is more of an investment for you than it is for the city.”

Hall, who has lived at 506 Jefferson Street for more than 20 years, said there is damage to the interior of building from water seeping through walls from deteriorated mortar between bricks. The grant provides funding for exterior work to make the repairs by tuckpointing the house.

In other business, Phil Mullins received approval for an amendment to his PACE grant at 707 East Main Street. The historic limestone retaining wall under the wrought iron fence in front of his house was damaged during the US 421 Bridge approach project, and Mullins said there is currently a lawsuit against the entities that caused the damage. His original PACE grant included money to fix the wall since he was not sure the process to repair through the Indiana Department of Transportation.

“I just feel the spirit of the city funds is not to help contractors correct their mistakes,” Mullins said while asking to shift more of the PACE funds for other elements on the project that were included in his original grant such as paint, repairs to doors, and repairs to shutters rather than funding for the wall repair.

Schell noted there will be three vacancies on the PACE board that need to be filled for 2022. Donnie Vaughn, who was at Wednesday’s meeting, is among those who has decided not to return to the board and Courtney expressing his appreciation to Vaughn for his past service.