Cliff’s Place currently has low ceiLings, a wall down the middle, and few exterior windows. The restaurant’s main entrance is in the background, right.
Cliff’s Place currently has low ceiLings, a wall down the middle, and few exterior windows. The restaurant’s main entrance is in the background, right.
January 8, 2014

The owners of Cliff's Place were awarded a $45,000 Main Street Iowa Challenge Grant to remodel the restaurant's interior.

The grant, which will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the business owners, was one of 14 awarded by Iowa Economic Development Authority and Main Street Iowa representatives Tuesday afternoon in a presentation ceremony in the Des Moines Botanical Center.

Cliff's Place is one of at least 15 Main Street businesses already receiving new windows through a downtown revitalization facade project funded by a federal Community Development Block Grant. Restaurant co-owner Jim Waterbury said these renovations to the storefront of the building inspired the family to renovate the interior as well.

"We're going to emphasize the building," said Waterbury. "We want to try to open it up even more, and let the light come through better."

Waterbury said plans for the interior of the building include removing the current ceiling tiles to open the ceiling to the original 10-foot high beams, to expose and refinish the hardwood floors beneath the current carpeting and to remove some of the short walls that cut down the center of the restaurant to open up the floor plan.

"It's a double-wide building, meaning it was two storefronts originally," Waterbury explained.

Waterbury said the grant funding will also help pay to update parts of the heating and air-conditioning systems, some of which are 30 years old, to more efficiently heat and cool the redesigned space. The building will also receive updated lighting.

"Anything green that we can do is big," he said, stating that the construction process will include a recycling component.

"We're very excited. Our heads are spinning even more now."

Started by Cliff and Vicki Waterbury, Cliff's Place first opened in 1976. Cliff has since passed away, leaving Waterbury and his brother Jon to take over operations in 2007. Vicki still owns the building, he said.

Waterbury said the facade project must be completed before renovations can start on the building's interior because the federal project must be finished before the state project can begin. He anticipates the length of the project at a few weeks and hopes all construction will be completed by the end of spring.

According to Ron Reischl, Main Street Manning board president, the Challenge Grant is offered once a year by Main Street Iowa. It is a competitive grant, and each of Iowa's 49 Main Street communities can submit one application.

"With the front being changed, the family recognized the need for improvements inside, and they expressed to us the desire to commit dollars to make an investment," he said.

The organization's director, Colleen Nelson, encouraged the Waterburys to apply for the grant.

"We were thrilled to be awarded the grant," Reischl said. "Cliff's is well-deserving. We believe the interior renovations will match the improvements on the exterior."

The total awarded through the Main Street Iowa Challenge grants was $951,000. The grants will be matched by $2.67 million, combining for a total $3.68 million of investment.

"These challenge grants have proven to be catalysts for the revitalization of Iowa's historic Main Streets" said IEDA director Debi Durham in a press release. "Reinvesting in our traditional commercial districts is good business. It's good for our economy and good for our state."

Reischl said the organization plans to continue to pursue additional grant opportunities. It will apply next for a business innovation grant from Main Street Iowa. Applications are due in February.