Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Durham Seeks Applicants for Neighborhood, Downtown Grants

DURHAM, N.C. – Durham business owners interested in funds to help improve their business locations should take note of three upcoming grant opportunities.

The City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development is now accepting applications for targeted areas inside the city limits for Retail and Professional Services Grants, Building Improvement Grants, and Sign and Facade Grants.

The only grant available to the Downtown Development Tier is the Retail and Professional Services Grant. Eligible projects will be considered for all three grant opportunities within the community development area outside of the Downtown Development Tier, including targeted corridors and projects within targeted urban growth areas. The targeted corridors inside the community development area are Angier Avenue and Driver Street; West Chapel Hill Street; Mangum Street; Fayetteville Street; East Main Street; and Holloway Street. The targeted urban growth areas are Wellons Village, North Roxboro Road, and Avondale Drive.

To assist applicants with identifying whether proposed projects are located within eligible geographic areas, a state-of-the-art mapping application has been developed by the City’s Geographic Information Systems’ Division.

Potential applicants interested in learning more about this grant opportunity may also attend a public information session on Monday, October 8, 2012, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the City Council Committee Room, located on the second floor of City Hall at 101 City Hall Plaza, Durham. 

Retail and Professional Services Grant
In order to be eligible for the Retail and Professional Services Grant, the project property must be a street level, retail business, restaurant or a certain professional or personal services business such as a childcare center or beauty salon. The applicant must be the owner of the property or have a fully signed lease and a letter of approval from the property owner supporting the proposed improvements. The business must be open at least five days a week, eight hours a day. Organizations that are not eligible to apply are religious organizations; government agencies or offices; businesses or private clubs that exclude minors as patrons; and residential projects.

Retail and Professional Services Grant recipients are eligible to receive up to $15,000 in matching funds from the City for a project that meets eligibility criteria and scores high enough in the competitive evaluation process. Only funds spent on work performed after City approval of the grant are eligible for reimbursement. Eligible expenses include but are not limited to security systems, telephone systems, point of sale equipment, kitchen equipment, millwork, built-in display furnishings and shelving, HVAC, coolers, plumbing, demolition, flooring, grease traps, sprinkler systems, electrical, installation of walls, package and labeling equipment and similar items.
Building Improvement Grant
The Building Improvement Grant requires that eligible applicants own the building at the time of application and the project must be private property and non-residential. Capital investment improvements must be on an existing building having vacant spaces for the purpose of improving and/or upgrading the interior and exterior in order to make the first floor more rentable or "retail/restaurant-ready." Grant parameters include the following:
·       If the project is within the community development area, the minimum total project capital investment must be at least $187,500. 
·       If the project is within a targeted portion of the urban growth area, the minimum total project capital investment must be at least $300,000. 

Sign and Facade Grant
The Sign and Facade Grant’s objective is to assist business owners and improve the pedestrian experience in select neighborhoods inside the city limits by enhancing the visibility and appearance of businesses through signage and facade improvements that are physically, historically, and architecturally compatible with relevant design guidelines.

Signage improvements include costs related to the design, fabrication, refurbishment, and installation of signs.  Facade improvements must be made to the exterior of one or more sides of the building and/or property visible from a public street or municipal parking lot. At least 50 percent of facade improvements must be attributed to costs associated within the following categories: 1) restoration, repair, or replacement of windows, doors, exterior walls, chimneys, or other architectural elements; 2) exterior painting; 3) awnings, marquees, and related exterior lighting and electrical fixtures; 4) masonry repair and cleaning; 5) non-flat roof repair for portion noticeable from the public line of site; 6) exterior work necessary for conversion to a retail or entertainment storefront; 7) removal of modern facades  in order to restore back to vintage quality; 8) restoration of vintage elements; and 9) removal of deteriorated building materials, such as plywood or metal.

The maximum incentive per business or address shall not exceed $2,500 for the signage portion of the grant and $5,000 overall. In no case shall the incentive exceed 50 percent of the total project cost. Funds will be provided through reimbursement upon completion of the project and submission of appropriate documentation proving compliance with relevant design guidelines and costs. Sign and Facade Grant applications will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis with funding subject to availability; there is no deadline to apply for this particular grant. A decision as to funding will be made within 15 business days of the City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development receiving a completed grant application. Information and guidance on signs may be found on the Durham City-County Inspections Department Web page.  

The deadline to apply for a Retail Professional Services Grant or a Building Improvement Grant is noon on Thursday, November 8, 2012. Sign and Facade grants are accepted on a rolling basis. All efforts will be made to evaluate and determine funding requests within 45 days of the submission deadline. The City anticipates notifying applicants of their award status by January 14, 2013. 

Interested applicants may also contact Reginald Jones, economic development coordinator with the City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, by email at or by phone at (919) 560-4965, ext. 15207.

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