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Façade-grant program propels Main Street businesses

Terry Hagerty - BEDC Contributing Writer

Anne Smarzik has ‘come home’ in two ways – so to speak – with a new business location on Main Street and a re-acquaintance with a town she visited as a youth. Smarzik and her family are renovating the two-story vintage building at 925 Main St., right next to the open-air plaza, with the help of a local company.

The building at 925 Main Street, which has been vacant for a number of years, was recently purchased by Anne and Richard Smarzik. They are one of many downtown business owners to utilize the grant program. (Photo by Terry Hagerty Photography)Kim Casper, owner of Caspro Builders, has been contracted by Smarzik to do the main renovation work for the 2,860 square foot building. Smarzik, who describes herself as “a metalsmith and jewelry artist”, said she hopes to have the building finished by the end of May. She has been approved for a $25,000 Main Street mega-grant to help with the project. That program, headed up by Bastrop Main Street Program director Nancy Wood and which originated with the Bastrop Economic Development Corporation, has helped business owners to create an impressive makeover of the downtown area over the past nearly decade.

“The grant program is great,” Smarzik said. “I’m thankful for anything we get” to help with the renovation cost, which she estimated will be over $100,000.

Wood explained the BEDC Renovation Grant Program: It “is intended to…stimulate the economic vitality of Bastrop’s Main Street Program area, located in the historic central business district,” she said, while also creating jobs. With grants, downtown’s “improved historic commercial properties and buildings become useful again and inspire adaptive reuse for new businesses,” Wood added. Eligible commercial projects may receive up to $5,000 in the form of a façade grant or up to a $25,000 “mega-grant, which includes both internal and external renovations to a downtown building. Since 2007, the grant program has given out 20 Façade Grants and 19 Mega Grants, totaling $463,000, to go along with nearly $3 million invested by property owners.

Kim Casper with Caspro Builders works on the renovations of 925 Main Street. (Photo by Terry Hagerty Photography)While Smarzik took a break to talk to this BEDC reporter on a very busy Wednesday, she said that her recent purchase of the building “has been part of a lifelong dream that I’ve had, because my parents brought me camping at Bastrop State Park” when she was a youth. Smarzik then reflected a moment and added, “My whole life, I’ve wanted to come back to Bastrop.” Previously, she had business locations at R. A. Green Mercantile building on North Main Street and in The Crossing, which is behind South Main Street bordering the Colorado River.

Smarzik has been doing some of the work herself on interior, while Casper and his crew of two helpers – brothers Dillon and Vincent Kopecky – have been working on both the exterior and the interior.

“We’ve been painting the ceiling and I’ve been removing plaster on the bricks. Several of my kids have also come to help on the weekend,” Smarzik said. On the outside Casper and crew were finishing a nice coating of taupe-colored paint this past week.

“It’s old brick in this building – I think from the 1800s,” Casper said as he was drilling into the sidewalk in front of the building. “Right now I’m drilling a small hole in order to anchor a post-base to the concrete” Casper said, adding the base would support pinewood pillars for the store’s canopy over the sidewalk.

“We are also (renovating) the building’s interior walls, flooring and doing some cabinet work,” Casper said. He and his company have earned kudos for their renovation work along Main Street, including Baxters on Main (the Louis Eilers Building), which was honored with the 2008 President’s Award from Texas Downtown Association for “Best Renovation/Rehabilitation (Private Sector).”

“I never thought I would be able to do this,” Smarzik beamed as she watched the progress of the renovation. “It’s really great.”