BROOKSVILLE — Although most would say it's a small part of a very big job — revitalizing downtown Brooksville — Joe and Otella Weeks have long wanted to do their share.
So last week, crews began sprucing up the 104-year-old home of Weeks Hardware, the city's oldest business.
Work began with pressure-washing, removing mold and mildew from the two-story building on Main Street. Plans also call for painting, window work and replacing a canvas awning.
"It's just a little facelift, that's all," Otella Weeks said from behind the front counter of the historic store. "I don't even know if people will notice it that much. We've been here for a long time."
But for those who appreciate the days when stores such as Weeks were at the heart of a bustling downtown, the added polish is a welcome sight. The business, which has never operated as anything but a hardware store, still has many old-time features, including its original hand-cranked freight elevator.
For many years, the Weeks family also ran a clothing store, Olive Leaf Elegant Fashions, on the second floor of the building.
Perhaps the best part of the makeover is that the city has agreed to pay about half of the $1,356 cost through its Community Redevelopment Agency grant program. First introduced in 2009 to help owners of businesses improve the curb appeal of their property, the program has funded about $70,700 in improvements to downtown properties.
Community Development Director Bill Geiger said that after a slow start applications for the grants have picked up steam the past year-and-a-half.
"It's a reflection of how much the economy has improved," Geiger said. "Business owners have a little more to spend on improvements, and they're taking advantage of what the city is offering in the way of help."
Among the more notable properties that have benefitted are the Lowman Law Firm building on south Main Street, the former Sinclair gas station at Broad Street and Brooksville Avenue and the former Lady Bug Florist shop on north Broad Street. The program also contributed about $10,000 toward the construction of the Brooksville Common.
The Weeks building exemplifies the kind of work that the CRA would like to promote. Property owners can get a dollar-for-dollar match up to $5,000. With a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 dollar match for larger investments, applicants may receive as much as $10,000.
The grant program is paid for through a special taxing district trust fund established in the late 1990s. Both the city and county contribute to the fund annually.
The Brooksville City Council, meeting annually as the CRA board, votes how much to place into the fund. Geiger expects the pot of money to grow as the city inches closer to finalizing plans for its "Downtown Beautiful" initiative that will fund construction of small pocket parks, landscape projects and improved signage.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]