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Improving Facades Across Texas

December 18, 2018 | Improving Facades Across Texas | By Tracy Cox, San Augustine Main Street Manager, and Ina McDowell, Executive Director, Main Street Texarkana |

With the generous support of the 1772 Foundation, Pecan Point Brewing Company in Texarkana, Texas, received a $10,000 loan/grant package for stucco repair and exterior painting as part of the first round of the Main Street America Facade Improvement Pilot Program.

In 2016, the National Main Street Center (NMSC) launched the Main Street America Façade Improvement Pilot Program, with generous support from the 1772 Foundation, Inc. This three-year program makes available $80,000 in no-interest loans and grants that support highly visible improvements to buildings and storefronts. Check out our program spotlight page, where we will be adding before and after photos of the façade improvement projects.

NMSC has partnered with the Texas Main Street Program’s team of experienced leaders and expert design staff to focus the pilot in two competitively selected Main Street America and Texas Main Street communities: San Augustine, led by San Augustine Main Street, and Texarkana, led by Main Street Texarkana.

NMSC is so grateful for the incredible work our partners in Texas have accomplished as part of this program, and we have invited the local Main Street managers to share their experiences of the program in this week’s Main Street Spotlight.

San Augustine

By Tracy Cox, San Augustine Main Street Manager

San Augustine is a small (pop. 2,109), historically significant town in Deep East Texas. The Façade Improvement Loan Pilot Program is working well for our community and is helping create a more vibrant downtown San Augustine!  All four points of the Main Street Four Point Approach™ are implemented during the process, supporting visible façade improvement and a highly productive local economic development boost. Here are a few of our projects:


 Heart of Texas Grill Before and After. Photo Credit: Tracy Cox

Heart of Texas Grill, 102 E. Columbia Street

The Heart of Texas Grill is situated in the heart of downtown San Augustine and next door to the San Augustine Drug Company, recipient of the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Treasure Business Award.

Upon opening their restaurant, owners Mike and Debbie Jackson needed a name and a sign, and the perfect solution came with this façade improvement program. Marie Oehlerking-Read and Sarah Blankenship of the Texas Main Street Program (TMSP) design staff worked closely with them on a design rendering appropriate for historic San Augustine and, equally important, in accordance with their taste!  

Cor-Craft, a signage company out of Nacogdoches, Texas, was the perfect fit for this project. After reading the materials the TMSP staff sent on historic commercial architecture, company owner Tommy Cordova was interested in learning more about preservation-based solutions. And now, the sign is a beacon to downtown San Augustine. 


Texas Star Retail Before and After. Photo Credit: Tracy Cox


Texas Star Retail and Boutique, 106 W. Columbia Street

Earlier this year, the Texas Forest Country Partnership named the Texas Star Retail and Boutique “Business of the Year” for San Augustine County. The business is directly in front of the hub of downtown, San Augustine County Courthouse. It could possibly be the best location in the Main Street district! 

The façade improvement loan opportunity presented itself to Texas Star Retail at a perfect time in their business planning. Owner Tammy Barbee Shofner knew she needed a sign to draw customers in from the Royal Highway (historic Hwy 21 El Camino Real de los Tejas), so she already had a contractor quote and a TMSP-produced rendering of the proposed work. Knowing that Heart of Texas Grill’s new neon sign design had been approved by TMSP and MSA and well-produced by Cor-Craft, Tammy decided to hire Cor-Craft to produce her sign as well.

Since the façade improvement project has been completed the business has seen an increase in business. As Tammy says, “My sales have doubled if not tripled after getting a new sign!" 

San Augustine Body Shop, LLC., 124 E. Columbia Street

The San Augustine Body Shop, LLC. is a downtown gym owned by Louann Halbert and managed by her son Adam. Louann and Adam have undertaken building rehabilitation projects before, such as replacement of their broken front windows and the uncovering of transom windows in the front façade.

Louann had previously discussed her desire for brick and mortar repair with the TMSP Design Staff two or three years before. These previous discussions simplified the loan application process because she had chosen a well-known contractor that TMSP had worked with on notable projects in the area, including Fredonia Hotel and the San Augustine Law Enforcement Museum. To make everything even simpler, Louann’s contractor quote still applied, and brick and mortar work was completed earlier this year. 

We expect another couple of jobs to take place in the next several months. This opportunity has been a real game changer for our downtown.  As the Main Street manager on the local level, I have observed that this program:  

  • Inspired action on the part of the business owner to do the project
  • Created opportunity for higher-end projects
  • Promoted some networking among businesses about contractors
  • Supported highly visible projects that continue to brand our town’s rich history
  • Changed the whole landscape of our downtown--during the day and at night. It is alive!

The Main Street Department and local businesses are extremely grateful for working with MSA, The 1772 Foundation, and the TMSP.   


TMSP, NMSC, and the 1772 Foundation, Inc. tour downtown San Augustine. Photo Credit: Tracy Cox


By: Ina McDowell, Executive Director, Main Street Texarkana

The old song, “My Texarkana Baby” tells the story of a woman from Texarkana whose Paw is from Texas and her Maw from Arkansas, depending on the version you hear. That song tells my story, too—a story that really isn’t so unusual if you live here!

Texarkana is a unique Main Street city within two states (Texas and Arkansas) affording it a multitude of opportunities to meet rewarding challenges each day. Texarkana, Texas, was incorporated in December 1873 and the Arkansas side in January of 1874. Fortunately, we mostly agree that we are established in 1873!

And while the two states can certainly be challenging, as siblings can be, we strive for ways to make our downtown Texarkana one community. I love our downtown, living among the competition and comradery of two city governments, mayors, convention centers, and even a federal Courthouse/Post Office--all with the state line running right through the middle.


TMSP, NMSC, and the 1772 Foundation, Inc. at the state line in Texarkana. Photo credit: National Main Street Center 

Given the community’s bifurcation across states, I am charged with serving two states and two cities through my role as Executive Director of Main Street Texarkana. With that in mind, I saw great opportunity for bringing the two sides together with the Façade Improvement Pilot Program through NMSC and 1772 Foundation, Inc. Main Street Arkansas already offers façade improvement grants to businesses on the Arkansas side, but similar incentives for Texas businesses have not been available. This program offered funding for the Texas side of our downtown, which helped create a sense of parity for building preservation efforts. How exciting to finally be able to offer grants and 0% interest loans to Texas businesses!

Working closely with TMSP and their wonderful design team, and with the City of Texarkana, TX, we were able to present loans and grants to several downtown businesses. This created immediate attention from our local media, giving us more to talk about in telling our downtown story. Over the course of several months, we have worked closely with TMSP and NMSC to finalize projects—five in Texas and two in Arkansas. The results have been exciting to see and have prompted more people asking about our Main Street program.

One of the businesses was a Pecan Point Brewery, a first for Texarkana, that found the timing of the program exactly what was needed. Having completed much of the work prior to opening, they still needed to install second-level windows and additional lighting for signage. They were the first to be approved and were able to finish the exterior work immediately with the new funding!

The Texarkana Museums System has four separate museums, and this program has helped support projects on three of their properties: much needed new signage with added lighting on the Discovery Place Children’s Museum; repair to exterior stairs at the Ace of Clubs House (1885); and new signage and an awning for the Museum of Regional History (1879), the oldest brick building in Texarkana.


Discovery Place Museum before and now, signage installation in progress. Photo Credit: Ina McDowell and NMSC

 Other projects included the rehabilitation of a two-story brick building at 214-216 Main Street, across the street from Pecan Point and our beautiful, historic Perot Theater. The 214-216 Main Street property owners report that the rehabilitation of their façade has prompted multiple potential tenants to contact about leasing the retail space for their businesses. This proved to be a wonderful addition to an already busy block. 

With some remaining funds available, we were able to offer funds to two projects in Arkansas. Repairs to windows, signage, and landscape helped complete the façade of Contemporary Concepts, a new granite business. This is wonderful new downtown business with a showroom of large granite pieces from around the world. 

Additionally, this program helped the new 1894 City Market install stairs and ADA accessible sidewalks in what was once an original grocery produce company. It is now a popular art gallery and event space, with 15 loft apartments are soon to be completed.  

1894_City_Market.png1894 City Market before and now, ADA accessible sidewalks visible to the right. New railings are currently being installed. Photo Credit: Ina McDowell and NMSC

This was even more reward for our participation in the Façade Improvement Pilot Program: an anonymous donor saw the need for funding incentives in Texas and established the STAR Grant (Strategic Texas Arts Rehabilitation). Similar to the existing Arkansas grant, the STAR grant is now a matching grant that supports rehabilitation of historic properties on the Texas side. It was finally recognized that to be one thriving downtown, incentives needed to be available in both states.

The pilot project gave us another opportunity to bring our two cities together, while bringing greater light to our wonderful downtown community. We have had coverage by all three television affiliates, numerous local newspaper stories on the progress of each project, and the continued growth of traffic and business in our downtown. We were also visited by the NMSC staff and the executive director program officer of the 1772 Foundation. Their visit was truly a highlight of our participation!

About the authors: Tracy Cox has been the Main Street Manager for the City of San Augustine for the past six years. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Ina McDowell has been the executive director of Main Street Texarkana since 2012. She has worked in the areas of local history and preservation in downtown for over 20 years. She resides in Texarkana with her husband and three children.