EHIG receives $99,000 grant check

Displaying a symbolic check for EM&M building restoration project planning are, left to right, Don Hollis, USDA rural development cooperative specialist; Janet Heuback, EHIG board president; Wendy Hansen, EHIG director; Bud Fisher, USDA program director; and Sara Miller, grant writer with Northeast Oregon Economic Development District. Photo by Elane Dickenson

Last week the Enterprise Hometown Improvement Group (EHIG) received a $99,000 check from representatives of the USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant program. The grant funds will be used for planning required to successfully complete Phase I of the EM&M Restoration Project.

According to Wendy Hansen, director of EHIG, all of Wallowa County will reap the rewards of this investment toward the protection of this 1916 landmark, situated on the north side of Enterprise's historic Courthouse Square.

"We are so grateful to be able to work with Bud Fischer and Don Hollis from USDA. They truly understand the importance of carefully and methodically laying the groundwork for such a large-scoped project," said Hansen. "The planning involved in this first phase of the restoration project is probably the most important work in the life of the project."

The USDA funds are being put to use right away. EHIG, working in partnership with the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District (NEOEDD), is currently requesting proposals from architecture and engineering firms who will bring together a specialized team of development consultants including structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, market and economic analysts, a historic preservationist, a cost estimator, a hazardous material abatement specialist, and an alternative energy specialist. These consultants will research in detail the existing condition of the EM&M building's structural, mechanical, electrical and fire/life safety systems. They will compile the history of the building and the EM&M business that it originally housed in preparation for a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The team will conduct market, business, and operation/maintenance analyses to identify ways that the building can be financially self-sustaining.

The architecture firm will work with EHIG and the community to finalize a conceptual vision for the building, according to Hansen. EHIG has spent over a year working with the community to identify how the EM&M Building can best be used to service the community. The vision that came from those discussions includes a Cultural and Performing Arts facility in the core of the building, with upgraded retail space on the street-level, second floor office/education suites, and third floor housing.

The hired team of consultants will help EHIG evaluate the feasibility of that vision. The architect will provide drawings and a model to clearly showcase that vision to the public, identifying how each part of the building will be used.

Hansen said the architect will also help EHIG clarify the construction phases of the project and determine how much each phase will cost. The USDA funds will pay for a full commercial real estate appraisal of the building and many miscellaneous work items including project management services, tax and legal consulting, grant writing, and public meeting facilitation.

USDA funds can only be used for contracted consultants - none of the funds can be used for EHIG's general operations.

"The work that USDA is funding is crucial to the success of the project. You could say we are creating a roadmap for a long-distance trip," said Hansen. "You want to be sure your destination is the right one, and that you get there in the most efficient and economical manner you can. You can't do that without good planning."

EHIG welcomes any ideas and suggestions you may have for the restoration of this historic landmark, and thanks the city for their consitent project support . Call EHIG at 426-0219.

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