The Downtown Association of Yakima’s Design Committee has been hard at work developing a façade improvement program while concurrently undertaking a pilot project to work out the kinks of the program.
The selection process for the pilot project was a collaborative effort by the group who looked for a project that would make a noticeable impact, not only for the business, but for the image of the downtown as well.
“It didn’t take us long to discover Chalisa Weippert,” said Steve Weise, the Design Committee Chair for the Downtown Association of Yakima. “Weippert’s Thai House restaurant is a hidden gem. She’s a talented chef with a charming personality and her business was hidden behind an aging store front.”
The goal of the program is to provide businesses and property owners with assistance to make upgrades to the exteriors of their buildings that promote transparency, safety, open air, interaction with the pedestrian environment, and historic preservation.
“Transparency is essential in the food industry, especially foods from different cultures,” said Weise.
The Thai House, located on 2nd Street, had very little transparency with small windows and a large awning. Today, the project is in phase 2 and the restaurant front has been replaced by large windows encouraging pedestrians and drivers to look in.
The first phase of the project included a small outdoor seating area in front of the restaurant that was completed in late August. The final phase of the project includes the removal of an iron grate which is hiding windows and scaling back the current awning.
“This project is our first of many,” said Weise. “We hope to be able to help 2-4 businesses in the following year.”
Case studies have shown the beneficial economic impact that these types of projects can have on a business. A recent study conducted by the Wisconsin Main Street Association and the University of Wisconsin found that 90% of businesses who underwent a façade improvement saw an increase in overall sales. (http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street/main-street-news/story-of-the-week/2015/measuring-the-economic-impact.html#.VdNYUXnwuUk)