Downtown Fairborn projects, businesses a focal point for city ARPA money

FAIRBORN — How much federal COVID relief money will go to downtown Fairborn businesses may become more apparent in the coming weeks and months.

Downtown and its businesses are the focus of a large chunk of the $6.57 million American Rescue Plan Act money the city plans to spend, with local merchants and property owners having the potential to draw from a pot of at least $1.3 million, Fairborn officials said.

The corridor’s vibrancy is a key interest as the area — the center of many entertainment and community activities — has been hit, as similar cities nationwide have, by economic challenges in recent years, city and business leaders said.

“My main concern is the continuing revitalization of our downtown,” Fairborn Mayor Paul Keller said. “It’s something that we as a city take pride in. I get feedback from residents that says we’re fortunate to have a downtown.

Credit: STAFF

Credit: STAFF

“Some adjoining (cities) don’t have a downtown and that’s something we take pride in and continually work to revitalize (and) update,” he added.

Some downtown merchants have cut operating hours and “a lot of businesses” are now closed on Mondays, Fairborn Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dan Kirkpatrick said.

“A lot of businesses have been hurt significantly by COVID and so ARPA funds in any way can help,” Kirkpatrick said.

One longtime, noon-hour restaurant favorite, Tickets Pub & Eatery on West Main Street, now opens at 3 p.m., according to its website.

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“Tickets was very popular during lunch,” Kirkpatrick said. “A lot of military ate there. A lot of downtown people ate there. And they couldn’t stay open for that.”

Operators of Tickets and other downtown businesses contacted for this report did not respond to inquiries.

The city last month earmarked a combined $1.3 million for economic development ($500,000), nonprofits/small businesses ($500,000) and downtown façade upgrades ($300,000), all from which downtown businesses may benefit, Keller said.

Fairborn City Manager Rob Anderson said in an email that “while we have not developed all of the criteria yet for the small business and façade programs, we will likely not give a business or owner funding from more than one program.”

Another $250,000 is set aside for a Main Street/Central Avenue project in the heart of the city. ARPA money to aid downtown Fairborn grows by $2.5 million when factoring in funds to renovate the former Fire Station #1 ($2 million) and the Fairborn Phoenix theater ($500,000), sites “on the outside edges” of the corridor’s boundaries, Keller said.

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Fairborn received $6.8 million in ARPA funds, but is keeping $225,000 in reserve, records show.

Which downtown businesses are applying — or are planning to seek — Fairborn ARPA funds is unclear. While Kirkpatrick said knows of “several in downtown who have applied,” he declined to elaborate, deferring to city officials.

Fairborn Assistant City Manager Mike Gebhart said in an email that officials are “still in the process of putting together each program” and declined to discuss downtown business operators who may be seeking money.

The economic development program will be run through the Fairborn Development Corp., Anderson said.

Criteria and deadlines for small business applications have not established yet, he said. Guidelines for the façade upgrade program should be developed in the next four to six weeks, Anderson added.

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