More Raleigh businesses and renovation projects are now eligible for grants from the city government.
In separate votes, the Raleigh City Council on Tuesday changed two city incentive programs in ways that officials say will help local businesses and boost the economy.
First, the council expanded the area in which new businesses are eligible for property tax reimbursements. The city’s business incentives program offers reimbursements on a sliding scale depending on how much a business invests, where it invests and how many jobs it creates. Businesses that plan to locate in one of 18 target areas are eligible for a higher level of incentives than those that don’t.
Until Tuesday, the city’s target areas covered 23 of the city’s 181 square miles. Now, businesses are eligible for incentives in 50 square miles of town, including more areas of Southeast Raleigh, the Western Boulevard corridor and North Raleigh.
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The council also changed its facade grant program so that it’s open to businesses within the newly-expanded target areas. The program was previously limited to property owners in downtown Raleigh or in one of the city’s “pedestrian business overlay districts,” which together totaled less than 2 square miles.
The facade program offers a matching grant of up to $5,000 on a first-come, first-served basis to owners of retail or mixed-use properties to improve their building facades. Grants can be used to remove false fronts, repair building materials or to add signs, lighting or other features.
The council, through its vote, also made murals and other art projects eligible for facade grant funding. The move is good news for art advocates who sometimes struggle to acquire funding, said Sarah Powers, executive director of Visual Art Exchange.
We have a history of giving the same groups the same grants. I want to see a plan that will reach out to new participants.
Corey Branch, Raleigh City Council member
“There are certainly people who are interested in getting this kind of thing in place,” Powers said, noting the Raleigh Murals Project.
“Hopefully (the fact that art now qualifies for funding) will prompt someone new to apply and create something that would make them more distinct and bring more personality to their spot that a regular renovation project might not,” she said.
At the request of Councilman Corey Branch, city staff members will inform local businesses about the facade grant program before they approve any more funding. Raleigh has granted nearly $1 million to 120 businesses since the program’s inception, but city records show that 42 percent of the grants went to two businesses: Empire Properties and Hakan Market Partners, which renovated City Market.
“We have a history of giving the same groups the same grants,” Branch said. “I want to see a plan that will reach out to new participants.”
Raleigh’s job recruitment move comes as some North Carolina business leaders express concern over a controversial new law that restricts transgender people to the bathroom facilities on their birth certificates and limits legal protections for LGBT individuals. In response to the new law, PayPal on Tuesday announced that it had canceled plans to expand into Charlotte and create 400 jobs.
The city’s action is not in response to the new law; Raleigh’s economic development team began crafting the changes last year and recently adopted a new property tax reimbursement structure.
Inside the incentives target areas, businesses that invest $20 million and create 20 jobs are eligible for a 75 percent property tax reimbursement from the city during each of the business’s first seven years at the location.
Outside the target areas, businesses that invest $50 million and create 50 jobs are eligible for a 50 percent property tax reimbursement over the first five years at the location.
Businesses that open a headquarters in Raleigh will be eligible for a 75 percent property tax reimbursement for their first seven years at their location – regardless of where they move – so long as they invest $10 million and create 50 jobs.