Nine Iowa communities today (Thursday) split half a million dollars in federal grant money for projects to spruce up buildings on their Main Streets. Senator Tom Harkin was on hand for an award cememony this (Thursday) afternoon at the statehouse. “One of the greatest challenges we face…is preserving the character and vitality of our small towns,” Harkin says. “Through restoration we learn our history, our character, what gave us substance as Iowans.” Harkin says the “Main Street” program has a long history of both federal and state support. Since 1986, the state of Iowa has given out seven-and-a-half million dollars worth of grants for Main Street projects, leveraging four-hundred-82 million dollars in private investment. “64 to one. That’s impressive,” Harkin says of the ratio of grant money to private investment. Iowa Department of Economic Development director Michael Blouin says the latest half a million in grant money will leverage a total a four million dollars worth of investment in the nine communities (of Bedford, Burlington, Charles City, Corning, Dubuque, Jewell, State Center, Waterloo and West Des Moines). “With small amounts of money, it’s amazing what you do,” Blouin says. Bedford is getting 40-thousand dollars to help restore the Garland Hotel. Ellis Houk’s (HOWK) family owns the hotel, which dates back to the 18-hundreds.Local officials threatened to demolish the hotel, but now restoration’s underway. With the grant, they’ll build a kitchen and restore the dining room to what it looked like in the early 1900s. Waterloo is getting 40-thousand dollars for restoration of two buildings in the downtown area. Sixty-one-year-old Charles Orr is the developer of the 120-year-old Fowler Building, which he hopes to turn into an art center with a gallery, art studios and loft apartments on the second and third floors. At street level, he envisions coffee houses and other businesses. Orr says the total project will cost about one-point-two million dollars, and the 40-thousand dollar grant will help leverage other funds. He says the facade of the building is desperately in need of restoration, but they will not sandblast it but use other methods to ensure preservation of the architecture. Here are details of the other projects: Burlington is getting 40-thousand dollars for a new building. Charles City is getting 37-thousand dollars for a handicapped elevator in the local art center. Corning is getting 20-thousand for restoration of the Opera House. Dubuque is getting 43-thousand dollars for the Old German Bank and the Silver Dollar Restaurant restoration project. Jewell is getting 40-thousand for a Main Street restoration project. State Center’s getting 40-thousand dollars for the restoration of the M-M Bishop Building. West Des Moines is getting 45-thousand for creation of a roof-top garden on a Valley Junction business called the Lagniappe.