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City Supporting Downtown’s Small Businesses with $100,000 Façade Grants

For Immediate Release
November 14, 2009

For More Information:
John Ivanic, (614) 645-6798

City Supporting Downtown’s Small Businesses with $100,000 Façade Grants

(Columbus) Downtown’s small retail businesses and restaurants are being offered an incentive to fix up their storefronts, thanks to $100,000 in façade grants being put forward by Mayor Michael B. Coleman and Columbus City Council at tonight’s meeting.

“Small matching grants can have a huge impact on the way a business looks and the way our entire downtown Mile on High area attracts customers,” said Mayor Coleman. “This is another part of our commitment to economic development in the heart of Columbus and we look forward to working with business owners to implement these façade improvements.”

The Mile on High effort focuses a variety of incentives on improving the business environment for retail and restaurants along the High Street Corridor downtown. Council Ordinance #1681-2009 authorizes the transfer of the funds from the Urban Site Acquisition Loan Fund to the Economic Development Division for the façade initiative.

“These grants will help business owners create a clean and welcoming environment,” said Councilmember Andrew J. Ginther, Development Committee chair. “The program is one of several designed to help small businesses succeed and to encourage residents to shop in downtown Columbus.”

In 2009, $5,000 façade grants were awarded to two companies, Sugardaddy’s which will soon be opening on Gay Street and Barrio at Spring and High Street.

Downtown Columbus historically had significant retail to serve thousands of residents and nearly 100,000 workers, but downtown lost its retail services when Columbus City Center closed. Mayor Coleman is putting together the Mile on High incentive package to attract new retail businesses in partnership with groups like the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District (CCSID), which conducted a retail demand study in 2008. The CCSID study showed significant demand for every category of retail services, including household goods, apparel and accessories, sports and leisure products, dining and entertainment, and groceries, pharmaceuticals, and convenience goods.

"This incentive program is important because it helps small, independent businesses cover the cost of signage, awnings, and other basic exterior improvements," said Cleve Ricksecker, Executive Director of CCSID. "It also helps market downtown to the hundreds of retailers that might be thinking about a new store location."

As a part of the effort, the CCSID is hiring a full time retail ambassador in 2010 to help connect entrepreneurs with properties.

The Mile on High District reaches from Spring Street on the north to Mound Street on the south, from Front Street on the west to Third Street on the east. Businesses wishing to apply for façade grants should contact the City of Columbus, Department of Development, Economic Development Division at 614-645-8616.

In other downtown business news, the Mayor is also asking City Council to support Ordinance #1692-2009 tonight, to offer a Downtown Office Incentive to Engauge to keep 76 employees downtown and add 50 new full-time positions, as well as Ordiance #1647-2009, for Teng & Associates, Inc. moving into 150 East Gay Street, with 25 jobs.

Name: Mile on High Retail Façade Improvement Program
Amount: Up to $5,000. Applicants must match the grant amount dollar for dollar
Eligible Participants: Property Owners of retail space, Tenants of retail space
Eligible Improvements: Exterior façade (front) renovation only. Improvements must be attached to the building. Projects may include one or several improvement elements such as:

  • signage
  • awnings
  • façade painting
  • window/door replacement
  • exterior lighting

Ineligible Improvements:

  • Free standing signs
  • Roofs
  • Outdoor seating
  • Landscaping
  • Sidewalk improvements

Architectural Design: A Certificate of Appropriateness must be issued by the Downtown Commission prior to project approval.
The Neighborhood Design Center will provide exterior design concepts at no cost to the applicant.


Program Guidelines:

  • One grant per storefront – either owner or tenant
  • If two or more storefronts are occupied by one
    business the maximum number of grants is two
  • If the owner or tenant of a building receive a grant/s and the building is sold or the tenant leaves, the new owner or tenant becomes eligible for a grant/s after three years from the date of closing of the previous grant/s
  • Project must be creating and/or retaining jobs
  • Permit fees for approved work are an eligible project cost
  • A commitment letter must be entered into before any work begins. Prior work, either started or completed is ineligible for reimbursement