Craig and Daria Allen's dream of living above their home renovation business was on the bubble Monday night, when council members questioned their matching $50,000 grant application.
The static came despite the application's meeting all the guidelines for the Downtown Matching Fund Grant program that City Council already approved.
“I can't tell my constituents their tax dollars are going to fix up someone's home,” District 4 Councilman Joe Baxter said. “I'm going to vote no, and I just wanted to tell you why.”
District 5 Councilwoman Dana Goolsby, however, questioned how council members could oppose a grant application that was done properly, under a program the City Council already approved.
“These people (the Allens) did everything we asked of them,” she said. “We can't penalize them now because we don't like the terms of a grant that we, as a council, approved.”
District 3 Councilwoman Vickey Chivers joined Baxter in voting against the application, which passed by a 4-2 vote. District 2 Councilman Mitchell Jordan was not present.
The $250,000 Downtown Matching Fund Grant program allocates grants of up to $75,000 to help owners of historic downtown properties rebuild and beautify their buildings, including some upstairs lofts, and get them up to code.
The money comes from the Palestine Economic Development Corporation, though the City Council must still approve individual grants.
Cities nationwide have used similar incentives to help redevelop their urban cores and attract residents to move downtown.
So far, six grants have been approved in Palestine, nearly tapping out the $250,000 program, which has about $29,000 left in the till.
“These grants have been very successful,” PEDC Executive Director Gayle Cooper told the Herald-Press.
Those applying for grants must have already purchased a building; owners of properties “not performing” in three years must repay the grant.
The Allens, who are moving here from Houston, said roughly 40 percent of the money from the grant of just over $50,000 will go toward their business; the rest would go to their home above the shop.
The Allens have already committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to their building.
“We fell in love with Palestine,” Craig Allen, 51, told the council. “We're from Houston. When we saw this town, we knew we wanted to live here.”
The Allens' business, First Class Renovations, LLC, custom restores buildings and homes in keeping with the periods in which they were built, while also providing modern conveniences like running water and bathrooms.
Additionally, they will run a store out of their building on 301 W. Oak St., where shoppers can purchase hard-to-find building supplies, windows, doors, and a host of other renovation materials.
Daria Allen, 47, told the Herald-Press her family's store would not compete with other antique stores in town, as their product is renovation-specific.
“We see our business as more of a support to the other similar businesses in town,” she said. “We want to blend, not only with the residents, but with the other stores in the community.”
The Allens said they expect First Class Renovations to open by the end of the year.