10/28/13 — Facelifts help downtown shops

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Facelifts help downtown shops

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on October 28, 2013 1:46 PM

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Seth Mabry

The Thistle Bee Quilt Shoppe building owner made use of the city's facade grant program to update the outside of the building with awnings and other improvements. The storefront to the left is the most recent recipient of the grant and will house two offices.

The city's downtown facade grant program seems to be making a comeback after a sharp drop off in interest and use during the Great Recession, beginning in 2008.

The program, funded through the municipal service district tax fund, provides businesses grants to improve their curb appeal.

At the Oct. 21 City Council meeting, Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Director Julie Metz asked for more money for the program to fund the remainder of an approved grant and to secure funds for future grants.

"We're making room for a couple more to come in this year," Ms. Metz said.

The City Council approved an appropriation of $6,398 for the program to fund a few more grants this year.

The money is given on a sliding scale based on the size of the project. City dollars are then supplemented by private funds from the business owners.

The grants are awarded on three levels based on the size of the project.

A small project is eligible for up to $1,000 of funding with a 50/50 match.

A special project that exceeds $2,000 but is less than $10,000 is qualified for a 50/50 match up to $2,500.

A large project must be over $10,000 and is eligible for 25 percent of the total cost, with a maximum match of $10,000 over a 10-year period. To qualify for the grant, a building owner must pay property taxes and house a commercial enterprise.

"The grant can go for anything visible on an exterior facade facing a public roadway," Ms. Metz said. "If there is a public parking lot behind your building, then it also would be eligible. It depends on the site."

The program, instituted in 1985, had a booming year in the 2006-07 fiscal year with 11 facades redone, but suffered in the following years dropping to three in 2009-10 and none in 2011-12.

"At one point the council talked about discontinuing it," Ms. Metz said. "We fought for it because it was the only program available for improving aesthetics in downtown, which the council had said was a priority."

This year, Uniquely R's, Paramount Enterprises and Elite Fashions have all completed facade renovations with the grant funds, and a vacant storefront at 226 N. Center St. will be redone into two business offices this year.

The grant has leveraged $75,000 of private funding this year with its $20,000 of funding to date.

The DGDC also furnishes a Downtown Business Incentive Grant, which provides new or relocating businesses downtown a $400 a month for one year -- up to $4,800 -- to help pay for their overhead costs, with a focus on helping them with marketing expenses.

One recent recipient is pizza restaurant Matchbox, owned by the Brown Bag Cafe owners, which is expected to open soon.

Of the 13 businesses that have received the grant since its inception in 2008, seven are still open, employing a total of 30 workers. Matchbox, which will employ 10 people, has yet to receive its grant.