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Back to the future

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City helps downtown property owners renovate facades with a nod to other eras

By Laura Herrington Watson

Rick Acres and Rick Hedrick are doing their part to spruce up Littleton’s Main Street, old-school style. Both property owners have taken steps in the past year to undo dubious upgrades to their historic buildings that took place in the 1950s and 1960s. 

Acres owns the building that houses Olde Towne Tavern and two other properties on Main Street in the historic district. A year ago Acres decided his historic property “needed a face-lift.”

“We finally got tired of being the ugliest building on the street,” says Hedrick, who owns a building at Main and Prince streets, and the engineering company, Hedrick and Associates, that occupies it.

Acres and Hedrick chose to use the grant program set up by the city to benefit owners of historic properties. It is optional to be under the historic umbrella, says Andrea Mimnaugh, a historic preservationist who works for the city. “Those who opt in to the program are required to comply with some guidelines when managing their historic building, but they also have financial incentives.”

“This money can be used for architectural design assistance, facade work, removal of graffiti, maintenance,” the city’s website states. Acres and Hedrick are using it for the facades of their respective properties.

The city provides up to $25,000 per year to property owners, who then use the money to maintain their buildings’ historic integrity. The program helps property owners plan and execute renovations projects that will make buildings “more in keeping with its history,” says Mimnaugh. “We typically use vintage photos in the consultation process and before we approve anything.” 

The grant program “is a catalyst for building owners to make improvements that would be beneficial,” says Acres. “I doubt whether owners would sink that much (of their own) money into a project.”

Acres says the upgrades benefit the community by keeping buildings in good repair and preserving the historic character of Old Town.

Acres started looking into his building’s historic uses to get some direction for the renovation. He learned the building dates to 1905; it housed the Vogue Theater in the 1940s, and he based his renovation plans on that era.

During the planning stages of renovating his building’s facade, Acres drew upon vintage photographs from by the city. Littleton architect Art Ranes to drew up a restoration plan that re-created the building’s appearance when it housed the theater. Acres then brought his renovation plans for to the city for final approval.

Working with historic preservationists from the city was helpful, he said.

“The city staff have been very good to work with,” says Acres. “They just want to find ways to help you.”

Olde Towne Tavern went under the scalpel for its face-lift this winter, and it is almost complete, except for a small patio fence and a fresh coat of paint. “I think the tenants are thrilled about the changes,” says Acres.

 

A building born again

The first coat of paint on Hedrick’s building was still drying on Friday afternoon.

Shoppers on Main Street noticed the fresh look of Hedrick’s born-again building on Friday. Several stopped and asked Jason Wesseling, project superintendent, “What’s this building going to be?”

Hedrick says his renovation has been smooth sailing, especially because his engineering company designed the architectural renovations plans in-house. “We got rave reviews from the historic board,” says Hedrick. 

When it is all finished and approved by the city, Acres expects to receive 80 percent of the cost back, or about $25,000. The out-of-pocket expense is more than worth it to Acres, who expects the property value to rise with the renovations.

“I love the character of my historic building,” Acres says, “It’s quite a nice addition to Main Street.”