The downtown section of Redwood Falls near the courthouse contains the oldest business buildings in town, some of them in continuous use for over a century....

The downtown section of Redwood Falls near the courthouse contains the oldest business buildings in town. Some of them have been in continuous use for over a century.
When buildings get that old, they need continuous maintenance to keep them usable.
To encourage business owners to maintain their properties, in 1996 the city set up the “Redwood Falls Downtown Revitalization Program.”
The program was designed “to eliminate slum and blight conditions, and to prevent further deterioration of downtown commercial buildings,” according to the city’s info sheets sent out to prospective clients.
“The nuts and bolts of the program are conservation of the existing building stock,” said Redwood Falls City Administrator Keith Muetzel.
“We’re trying to preserve the existing buildings downtown. We want the buildings to stay viable for future use, and to look nice.”
The city doesn’t approach building owners. While the city works to promote the program, it’s the building owners who have to take the first step of approaching the city about getting a loan and/or grant.
The funds can only be loaned out for specific purposes.
“We’ll use the funds for anything that inspires energy efficiency,” said Muetzel, listing heating, cooling, lights, roofs, and waterproofing as main goals.
“We focusing on main components, not cosmetic changes such as carpeting.”
Say a business owner goes through the process of getting bids on a project, and want to apply for a loan / grant. How is the cost of the project divided up?
Although the terms vary, the usual financial formula works as follows:
• One-third of the construction amount is the building owners’ share. “They have to make an up-front cash contribution,” said Muetzel.
• One-third is a five year loan from the city, at three percent interest.
• One-third is a grant that doesn’t need to be repaid as long as the owner continues to own the building for at least the next five years.
Only certain blocks on the downtown area are eligible for the loans and grants — mostly those blocks near the courthouse that have the oldest usable business buildings in town.
“We (the city) did discuss whether we should make the loans available community-wide, but we just can’t afford it,” said Muetzel.
The maximum loan amount is $15,000, which is also the maximum amount of a grant. In theory, a business owner could get as much as $30,000 for a project, although most cost less than that.
“One owner can apply for more than one project, but not for a total of more than $30,000,” said Muetzel.
The program was started in 1996, and ran successfully until the funds ran out — as was expected.
“When we loan out $30,000, and only get $15,000 back, the funds eventually will be depleted,” said Muetzel.
In 2007, the city replaced the initial funds, and got the program going again. Since then it has been used by many local downtown businesses, including:
• 2007: Tatanka Bluffs Bed and Breakfast
• 2008: Blossom Town, Johnson Surplus, Gem Den, Armory Square Mall
• 2009: Hair Studio, Photography by David, Designing Women Salon
• 2010: “Old Carnegie Library”, Shirts Plus, Hair Studio
• 2011: Scenic City Realty
• 2012: Falls Fitness, Hair Company Salon and Spa, GuidePoint Pharmacy
2013: “Old Movie Theater”, “Old Gazette Building”, Kaardal Accounting.
It’s called a revolving loan fund because most of the money that is loaned out comes back to the city, to be loaned out again.
“We have $20,400 left in the fund,” Muetzel said earlier this month. “When that amount is gone, we’ll have to build it up again by reestablishing the funds in the account, or transferring funds within the city’s budget.
“We want to loan it out; we don’t want to keep it here,” Muetzel said.