An old gas station is in the process of becoming a new office building through the efforts of a local businessman and a federal grant program intended to improve the exteriors of downtown Jamestown buildings.

"We're trying to get rid of an eyesore," said Nick Bruns, an insurance agent who is renovating the building at the intersection of First Avenue North and Third Street Northeast. "For us, this grant takes us from just sprucing it up to a beautification process."

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Bruns, who owns the building with Bjorn Hanson, plans to locate Nodak Insurance at the site.

The project is one of three approved for the Downtown Storefront Improvement grants this year in Jamestown. The grant can be used for exterior improvements to a storefront or building facade that meet requirements along First Avenue or one block to the east or west in Jamestown.

The other two projects that have been approved are the Orriginals building and the former Masonic Lodge.

The federal grants are distributed by the North Dakota Department of Commerce to Jamestown through the Community Development Block Grant program. The local grants are administered by South Central Dakota Regional Council under contract from the city of Jamestown.

"We're keeping them on track," said Traci Redlin, project manager for the Regional Council, referring to the amount of paperwork involved in the application and approval process. "The amount of the grants varies but I don't think it would ever cover 100% of the project."

Redlin said $100,000 will be available each year for 10 years under the current authorization. Projects are reviewed by a local committee which then approves grants for projects based on the size and priority of the project.

"This has been in the works since last fall," said Lynn Lambrecht, president of the Jamestown Downtown Association, referring to the program. "... We had about a three-month window to get the application (to the Department of Commerce) in."

Lambrecht said the city of Jamestown, Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce and other agencies worked to get the grant program approved.

"It's designed to offer those building owners a way to offset the cost of renovation to the exterior of their building," she said. "Some are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compatible. Others need new doors and windows. It can all get terribly expensive."

The overall intent is to make the downtown Jamestown area more inviting, said Sarah Hellekson, Jamestown city administrator.

"Anything we can do to improve the city or help the business owners is good for Jamestown," she said.

Lambrecht said any applications coming in now would likely work through the process for the 2020 construction season.

Applicants should also be prepared to meet extensive criteria which includes detailed construction plans and estimates, environmental surveys and historical surveys.

"It's a process," Lambrecht said.

Bruns said it has been a worthwhile process.

"We purchased the building last year and the grant process came along at about the end of last year," he said. "We've just now gotten to point we can start on the exterior work. We could start on the construction in the next two weeks."