With help from the city, Raleigh’s storefronts may soon look a little nicer.
City leaders are poised to approve a major expansion of an incentives program that offers a matching grant of as much as $5,000 on a first-come, first-served basis to owners of retail or mixed-use properties to improve their building facades. The money can be used to remove false fronts, repair building materials, or to add signs, lighting or other features.
The program has been limited to property owners in downtown Raleigh or one of the city’s “pedestrian business overlay districts,” which include Glenwood South, Hillsborough Street, Peace Street and the North Person Street business district. A proposed map endorsed by Mayor Nancy McFarlane’s committee on Tuesday would make the grants eligible to hundreds more properties – including those in high-poverty, industrial and redevelopment areas.
The proposed map would make incentives available in Southeast Raleigh, along the Western Boulevard corridor and southwest Raleigh, the Brier Creek area, along the northeastern Beltline and along Capital Boulevard beyond Durant Road.
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The committee’s proposal also makes murals and other art eligible for grant funding.
“We’re trying to help out small businesses and also encourage economic development in areas that need it,” McFarlane said.
The new map becomes effective upon approval from the City Council, which is likely to come sometime next month. The other council members on McFarlane’s Economic Development and Innovation Committee, mayor pro tem Kay Crowder and Bonner Gaylord, praised the program expansion.
“I think it’s an excellent plan,” Crowder said.
The city, which budgets $50,000 a year for the program, has granted nearly $1 million to 120 businesses since its inception in the 1980s. A list of grant recipients shows the money has gone to businesses such as Raleigh Times, Boulted Bread and Person Street Bar as well as some that later closed, such as PieBird and Tir Na Nog.
City staff says the program has generated more than $3 million in business investment, including major construction on Fayetteville and Hillsborough streets.
Expanding the program “would be huge” for local businesses, said Jennifer Martin, executive director of Shop Local Raleigh.
“I know about a half a dozen businesses interested in moving from Cary to Raleigh but can’t because the cost is too high,” Martin said. “This could definitely help them.”
Facade Grant Criteria
Eligible buildings must be as least 10 years old and designated as retail or mixed-use. Renovations must also conform to aesthetic guidelines of any governing zoning district or review board, such as the Raleigh Historic Development Commission, where applicable.
Applicants seeking the grant for a mural or other art must tell the city their specific idea down to the art's color and size. Applicants must also submit a list of references for the artist, as well as estimated labor fees, equipment rental, construction and material costs in their request.
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