NEWBERRY — Coming off the success of last year’s downtown facade improvement program, the city of Newberry will continue the grant program this year, according to Assistant City Manager Matt DeWitt.
DeWitt said a total of 20 downtown businesses took part in the program last year, with 20 projects and a total of $147,000 in grant applications approved.
City council approved the program in December 2013 during their annual budget process for a 90 percent match on a project up to $10,000 for merchants to make improvements to their storefronts. Projects can exceed $10,000 but the 90 percent match only applies to the first $10,000 of work completed by the owner.
DeWitt said there were leveraged investments by owners of $42,000 to accompany the city’s programming, or 29 percent of the monies invested in downtown renovations were supplied by merchants.
This year’s application process is different because the deadline to apply is Oct. 31, DeWitt said. The reason was so that they could ensure that the projects were wrapped up within the current fiscal year.
A maximum of $9,000 will be matched on all projects, DeWitt said, but the project can be as big or small as the merchant’s request as long as it is approved by the city’s Architectural Review Board (ARB).
“We encourage the owners to really leverage funding to get as much out of the grant as they can,” DeWitt said.
The grant can only be used once every three years on any one property.
The purpose of the facade improvement plan is recognizing that the appearance of a downtown is largely determined by the condition of its buildings, which also forms the basis of the public’s overall impression of downtown.
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 as the funds are limited. 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.
Facade improvements may include, but are not limited to:
• Brick or wall surfaces cleaning
• Patching and painting of facade walls
• Signage or exterior lighting replacement/repair
• Structure or frame that contains or holds a sign
• Canopy, porch, awning installation/repair
• Window and/or door replacement/repair
• Railings, ironwork repair or addition
• Cornice repair and/or replacement
Ineligible improvements include but are not limited to building maintenance including paint to match existing conditions and differed general repairs, parking lot improvements, interior or roof improvements, removal of architecturally significant building features, any activity completed prior to receiving approval of grant funds.
DeWitt said that the ARB will accept/review applications in the order they arrive, approve all applications on or before Nov. 28, and each approved project must be completed on or before May 31, 2015.
Merchant’s properties are only eligible to receive grant funding once every three years.
“Last year’s program was very successful,” DeWitt said. “It’s evident if you go down Main Street in the Downtown proper — I think you’ll notice the change. I think downtown Main Street has come a long way and It’s great to see the positive reactions to the downtown facelift by merchants, residents, and visitors alike.”