One project at the time, efforts to revitalize Astoria’s western entrance appear to be working.
The changes at first glance are pretty small. Two years ago, four Uniontown homeowners were given pieces of an $11,000 grant from the State Historic Preservation Office to help refurbish and renovate the outside of their historic homes: think replacing vinyl windows with wood clad, fixing a roof or restoring an outdoor staircase.
“They are small projects but they have quite a bit of impact for these neighborhoods, and for homeowners, too,” City Planner Nancy Ferber said.
Along the business corridor, subtle changes also can be seen — a new facade for the Workers Tavern, renovation work at the building across from Pig ‘N Pancake, the reopening of Bond Street — all financed through the expansion of the Astor-West Urban Renewal District.
The projects are small parts of what has been a larger push from the City Council to breathe new life into one of the city’s most historic districts.
So far, interest in revitalizing historic homes through the grant program has outpaced how much the city can distribute, Ferber said.
Overall, City Manager Brett Estes said he feels the effort to restore Uniontown has been “exceedingly successful so far.”
“It’s really great to be able to incentivize,” Estes said. “We don’t have to have a historic preservation program that’s purely regulatory ... we want to have some carrots, as well.”
The renovations are one piece of a larger effort to have a long-term vision for the western gateway. In 2018, the city launched Uniontown Reborn, a study funded by state grant money and aimed at laying the groundwork for a number of different improvements.
While the facade improvement programs are a good place to start and collectively have improved the area, Estes said finishing the study will be critical to understand long-term planning needs.
The study aims to answer larger questions about transportation issues and what kind of development needs to happen to revitalize an area that has long been at the center of the logging and fishing industries, but has not had the same kind of investment as downtown.
“We need to look at the study with the recommendations that will come out. Those recommendations could include changes in zoning and transportation,” Estes said. “What’s the streetscape look like?”
This year, $12,000 is available in preservation grants, and this time the money is open to everyone with a historic home looking for a little help with renovation.
“It’s a great way to make preservation accessible,” Ferber said. “Sometimes the cost of homeownership is excessive. Having ways to supplement with funds from the state to help with historic preservation is important because it’s a big part of who we are in Astoria.”