Last updated: February 11. 2014 6:54PM - 473 Views
By - eparnell@civitasmedia.com

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NEWBERRY — Downtown merchants might soon have the opportunity to improve their properties through the help of the City of Newberry’s Downtown Facade Improvement Plan.

The grant, which merchants would be responsible for applying, would allow for a 90 percent match on a project up to $10,000 to make improvements to their storefronts.

City council approved the money in December 2013 during their annual budget process, according to Matt DeWitt, assistant city manager.

The grant funds would be distributed on a first come, first serve basis and can be broken out in any amount not to exceed the $10,000 limit. The applicants will be responsible to secure all approvals before making any improvements, pay 100 percent of the upfront costs, and then only upon successful completion and approval of the project will funds be awarded to the grant recipient.

DeWitt said they realize that people and businesses bring life to the downtown area. The downtown facade improvement grant program enlivens the environment by significantly improving the appearance of buildings, which adds value for downtown property owners and visitors.

The objective of the grant program, DeWitt said, is to dramatically improve the facades of downtown buildings so that after the work has been completed, the community will noticed a defined improvement in the appearance of the buildings and physical environment of downtown.

Its purpose is to provide economic incentive to promote storefront rehabilitation in downtown Newberry, preserve the unique character of the historic buildings downtown, encourage aesthetic compatibility for improvements to facades of non-historic structures, and to encourage the use of quality materials in the rehabilitation of downtown properties.

The grant program specifically states that the improvements should be those that are permanent and part of the building, rather than temporary changes.

Those eligible to apply for the downtown facade improvement plan must be the owner or tenant of a business or commercial building located within one of the two downtown historic district boundaries. Owners or tenants may request the incentive grant, however, any tenant must have the owner’s written permission attached to the application.

If a property owner owns more than one downtown building, he or she will only be eligible for one grant per year if the funds are limited. The grant will only be available one per location, per year. The property must also be classified as a business or commercial property. There must also be no delinquent bills, business license, charges or taxes due to the city.

The final eligibility for the improvement program is that any improvements that have been made through the monetary funds and which become a part of the property may not be removed from the property unless they can be used on another property within downtown.

DeWitt said there are several design guidelines for the improvement plan that are outlined in the application. Although DeWitt dropped off applications to most businesses downtown, they may also be picked up at City Hall.

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