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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Where the Rubber meets the Road: Neighborhood Revitalization and Preservation Grant Funding

Hello everyone! We are celebrating Preservation Month in May! The point behind each of these weekly spotlights this month is to show your impact on preservation efforts over the past six years - since the 2016 capital campaign. This spotlight will showcase the work your investment has made possible! In June, we will return to the regular history-related emails. However, for this month - we need you to know how important you are to the work you love! Historic preservation only flourishes because of your passion for the history of this town, its stories, and its people. If you have any questions or concerns, never hesitate to contact the HCF Office – 706-322-0756 or Thank you for all you do for preservation in Columbus!


Stabilizing City Mills became the centerpiece of Historic Columbus’ 50th Anniversary and its first ever capital campaign, “Save Me A Place.” 2016 was an extremely busy and exciting year. Thanks to the leadership of Janice Biggers and Virginia Peebles, as the co-chairman of the 50th Anniversary, and Ed Sprouse with his capital campaign team of Past Presidents Dexter Jordan, Elizabeth Ogie, George Flowers, Philip Adams, Mary Bradley, Jack Key, and Will Burgin, Historic Columbus raised over $6 million and celebrated all year long with lunch and lecture programs (Sally Walden), events (Nell Hudson and Bobsie Swift), and the Golden Jubilee (Dexter Jordan and Mint Flowers). In addition to City Mills, the initiatives and programming that the donors of the capital campaign funded included the new Public Participation Grant, an expanded Façade Loan program, a new Rehabilitation Loan program, and increased funds for the Revolving-Redevelopment Fund to save more historic properties. The work highlighted today in Waverly Terrace, High Uptown, and The Mill District is the result of the campaign, its vision, and its donors.

Facade and Rehab Loan Programs

Before and after of a commercial building within The Mill District

Historic Columbus’ Façade Loan program was established in 1997 by the Board of Directors and was championed for many years by Director Emeritus Brown Nicholson. Between 1997 and 2017, HCF loaned a little over $927,000 to 204 property owners to make improvements and investments in their historic properties. The loans (up to $5,000) were established to help homeowners renovate the exterior of their home. In 2017, the Facade Loan program was expanded (now up to $15,000) and the new Rehab Loan (up to $100,000) was created thanks to $500,000 in funding through a Program Related Investment (PRI) with the Bradley-Turner Foundation. Since the beginning of the PRI in March 2017, 41 low-interest loans have been made (with some having revolved) totaling $975,000 of investment in the rehabilitation of historic structures. These loans have been made in Midtown, the Columbus Historic District, and The Mill District. We are also extremely grateful to our partner, NeighborWorks Columbus, for their assistance in administering the loans. The total loans provided since inception of the program is now $1.902 million!! 245 loans have been made to property owners to renovate their historic structures, increase their property values, and assist in the overall revitalization of the neighborhoods they love.

Interior and exterior renovation work on 304 35th Street - one of the first Rehab Loans made!

Janice P. Biggers Revolving - Redevelopment Fund

The Janice P. Biggers Revolving – Redevelopment Fund was established in 1968. The goal is to accept endangered properties, invest in renovation work, and then sell the properties to sympathetic owners to complete the rehabilitation. The funds are then returned to the Revolving Fund to repeat the process. Since inception, Historic Columbus has revolved over 85 properties returning over $13 Million to the Muscogee County Tax Roles. Besides being a valuable tool for saving historic buildings, a revolving fund can influence the future of an entire neighborhood by bringing cash or rehabilitation expertise to a project. While Historic Columbus typically does not recoup all of its funds in the sale of the properties, the impact of the project creates a ripple effect that promotes future private investment in the surrounding neighborhood. Below are the most recent properties revolved through the Fund and the current properties within the Fund. Properties Revolved HCF Investment SOLD 1. 641 Veterans Parkway (lot) $100,000 $20,000 2. 2909 10th Avenue $116,000 $20,000 3. 1529, 1531, and 1535 Third Avenue $140,000 $75,000 4. 1415 Third Avenue $125,000 $125,000 $481,000 $240,000

The two images above are a before and after of 2909 10th Avenue in Waverly Terrace The two images below are (l) 1529,1531, & 1535 3rd Avenue and (r) 1415 3rd Avenue in High Uptown

Historic Columbus’ stabilization work at 2901 1st Avenue is finally complete! Purchased in 2020 as a vacant home, Historic Columbus identified this property as a key piece to helping set the trajectory of the Bradley Circle area in City Village. The property serves as the entry point to the unique circular street which contains relatively intact and modest mill village houses built in the early 20th century. The stabilization of this house was secured through an anonymous donation of $60,000.00, which provided for a new roof, interior demolition work, and exterior repainting and repair. 2901 First Avenue is just one property of many in the area that have recently seen a good deal of investment. We have recently gone through a sealed bid process to sell the property with a minimum bid of $50,000. While the property has not closed yet, we expect it to be in the new owner’s good hands in the next four to six weeks to complete the renovation work! Historic Columbus also extends a great deal of thanks to Chris Harman and Wildwood Gardens for the donation of new landscaping for the house! Be on the lookout for more to come in Bradley Circle.

2901 1st Avenue in Bradley Circle

Thanks to HCF Past President Jack Jenkins, the shotgun shuffle has become a reality. It all began with the purchase of 2807 Bradley Circle by HCF Past President and Director Emeritus Mary B. Bradley. The house was structurally beyond repair and soon demolished. Now, the property was vacant and looking for a new purpose. Historic Columbus identified a threatened shotgun house at 207 35th Street and promptly moved it off its foundation. Following a lengthy rezoning process, Historic Columbus was then able to move the house onto the now vacant lot at 2807 Bradley Circle. If you are at all familiar with Bradley Circle, you know its land lots are shallow and wide. These wedge-shaped lots do not easily lend themselves to long shotgun houses, and that is where Jack’s “shuffle” comes into play. The “shuffle” part involves removing the rear third of the shotgun and sliding it around to the side, creating a cottage with a small front porch. Like the house at 2901 1st Avenue, Historic Columbus will stitch this house back together with a new roof, windows, and doors along with fresh paint. It will then be sold to a sympathetic owner for further rehabilitation. Helping to fill in the gaps of historic neighborhoods with appropriate threatened historic structures is something that Historic Columbus has been doing for over 50 years.

Public Preservation Grants

As we all know, there are numerous (non-profit or government owned) historic structures in our community that are in need of renovation work. Historic Columbus’ Public Participation Grant allows places such as these to apply for a grant up to $100,000 for bricks and mortar preservation work. Grants have been awarded in 2017, 2019, and 2021. The final round of the Public Participation Grant program will be announced in 2023. Over the course of our first three rounds, we have had incredible applications each time with very worthwhile preservation needs. HCF's Preservation Committee has had the task of scoring the applications to determine the finalists, and the project with the most votes from the public becomes the recipient. The Spinger Opera House was the first recipient in 2017. The Committee also awarded smaller grants to the Wynn House (receiving $40,000) and the Liberty Theatre (receiving $10,000), as the second and third place finalists that year. In 2019, Zion Episcopal Church was the $100,000 recipient. In 2021, the World War II Company Street at the National Infantry Museum received the most votes to win the funding. Within the captions below are the winning projects that were funded and how they utilized the grant for their historic structures.

The Springer Opera House, built by Francis Joseph Springer in 1871. The Springer, a National Historic Landmark, soon became known as the finest theatre between New York and New Orleans. The grant funded a new roof, as well as repair damage to interior ceilings and mold removal.

Zion Church, c. 1848, is one of America’s most significant wooden Gothic Revival buildings. The grant would fund the exterior restoration of the building with first emphasis being to stabilize the bell tower, buttresses, and the front facade. The property is located in Talbotton and is owned by Zion Church Restoration, Inc., dedicated to its restoration and revitalization.

The 2021 recipient was the National Infantry Museum’s World War II Company Street. They received $100,000 grant for roof replacement for all the buildings. Nationally, more than 6,000,000 soldiers trained in 700 Series buildings, which were constructed to be used for five to twenty years. However, the need for training more soldiers in the buildings continued. The NIM persuaded the Army to rescue seven. This is the only set of 700 Series buildings existing in the southeast.

So far, $350,000 has been awarded through the Public Participation Grant. It has one more round remaining, and you will be hearing much more about it in the coming year. This grant program has been such a joy for Historic Columbus to be able to provide substantial funding for larger projects and most importantly, to get the public involved and invested in their preservation. I hope this has given you a little glimpse into the preservation work Historic Columbus has been able to do over the past six years thanks to the donors of the capital campaign and our faithful membership. There is always more to do, and we are so thankful for your continued commitment to historic preservation and this community we all love. Next Week: We will feature our education and advocacy efforts, including the Patricia Jackson Howard Scholarship, the Virginia T. Peebles Grant, and HCF initiatives in Midtown. I hope you will stay with us for a month of Preservation Spotlights focusing on the current education efforts and preservation projects your love of history is supporting. Please join us!

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