Richmond Hill businesses could get grants to pay for up to half the cost of sprucing up after city council approved $75,000 in funding Tuesday for the city’s Downtown Development Authority and its Façade Grant Program.
The program will initially be used to reimburse business owners of as much as 50 percent of the cost of new signs, according to a letter to the council from RHDDA Chairperson Georgene Brazer.
Later, grants may be available to upgrade exteriors, landscaping, fencing and other projects. The letter from Brazer notes such incentive programs have been used across the state to encourage business and property owners to “improve the exterior appearance of their buildings and storefronts to increase the economic vitality of targeted areas.”
The grants are capped at $5,000, and the amount must be matched and paid up front by the business owner, according to the city.
Businesses owners can apply for the grants between Sept. 1 and Dec. 28. Applications will be then be reviewed by the RHDDA on a first-come, first served basis, and applicants have to abide criteria that Scott Allison, the city’s assistant city manager and planning and zoning director, said was strict.
Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter said funding for both the RHDDA and its façade grant program has been a goal since officials began to work on ordinances requiring businesses to meet certain appearance guidelines.
“We knew there would be the issue of incentivizing existing businesses, which in all fairness to them had to be grandfathered in, in order to bring their signage and landscaping and façade up to follow the new ordinances,” Carpenter said. “This is an idea that’s been in the works for many years.”