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IC Businesses Get Facade Facelifts

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- With its neon sign and bright green awning, Bo'James might be one of the most recognizable store fronts in all of Iowa City.

"The front was probably redone, I'm going to guess, 60 years ago? Maybe more? It's going to be a long, long time (ago)," said owner Leah Cohen.

With that many years behind the building, Cohen decided she needed to make some changes. So, she applied to the city's Building Change incentive program, was one of the eight out of 16 buildings that was chosen for the program, and will now get funded for those changes.

The city, along with the Iowa City Downtown District, is helping to make the renovations as a part of the incentive program, in conjunction with the city's strategic plan.

And it's helping Cohen do a complete facade renovation.

"The whole building will be brick, matching brick all the way," she said, gesturing to the current glass facade.

And the two front-facing apartments will get big windows and interior drapes.

"I think it'll look pretty nice when it's done," Cohen said.

But the facelift may cost Bo'James one of its trademarks: that big neon sign. Those kinds of signs aren't allowed in the city anymore, but Cohen said hers has been grandfathered in and is allowed to hang. Now, it's future is uncertain.

"We haven't quite decided (what will happen) yet. That's kind of up in the air," she said.

Peter Kroeger has lived in Iowa City his entire life, and said, losing the sign means losing a big piece of town tradition.

"Do you change something people recognize, or do you keep it the same?" Kroeger said.

And while the fate of the sign still hangs in the balance, Cohen is just glad the city is helping her, and other businesses, make the much needed renovations.

"A little quicker than they would have done them otherwise," she said.

The other businesses getting funding are Atlas, Quinton's, Panchero's, the Chait Galleries, Active Endeavors, the Yacht Club and the building at 30 South Clinton Street.
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