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Decatur Downtown Development Authority creates facade improvement grant program

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Decatur Downtown Development Authority creates facade improvement grant program

The Decatur Downtown Development Authority met on Friday, Nov. 11, to establish a commercial facade improvement grant program. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur Downtown Development Authority, at its Nov. 11 meeting, established a commercial facade improvement grant program and allocated $100,000 to the program.

“This is going to be a grant program that reimburses expenses that are incurred on large projects, as well as smaller projects for ground-floor commercial, retail, and service businesses,” Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill said.

Grant awards for larger projects range from $2,500 to $10,000. For larger projects, business owners and commercial property owners would have to provide some matching funds as well.

“The program will provide a 75/25 matching grant, with 75% of the project expenses reimbursed through the CFIG program, up to $10,000, and 25% of expenses incurred by the applicant,” Business Development Manager Shirley Baylis wrote in a memo. “The DDA will reimburse … the applicant after all necessary project expense documents have been submitted and approved by the program review committee.”

There will also be micro-grants available for one-time minor improvements would be $1,000. The DDA decided to cap the number of micro-grants available at 10 awards in order to reserve most of the funding for larger projects.

The program review committee is made up of two representatives from the DDA, a representative of the historic preservation commission, the business development manager and the city’s historic preservation planner.

When reviewing applications, the committee will consider project feasibility, project compliance, and the project scope.

The committee will meet about four times a year, as grant applications will be evaluated quarterly. They will make a recommendation to the DDA, which will make the final decision on how to distribute the grants.

Projects would have to start within six months of the grant approval and be completed within 18 months of a business receiving the grant.

The board also discussed placing an emphasis on projects that would benefit the current and future tenants.

“We’re looking to encourage more projects that provide permanent change and benefit, whether it’s for the current tenant or a future tenant,” Threadgill said. “What we have left in is that if the project is deemed to be more specific for the current tenant, such as a sign or an awning, that they need to be in that space for a two-year period, and if they do vacate that space they need to pay back that grant.”

Business owners and commercial property owners can apply for a grant. Here is the applicant eligibility criteria, according to the memo:

– The business or commercial property must be located in the City of Decatur.

– The business or commercial property owner has paid all appropriate taxes, fees and other assessments, including property taxes, business license fees, occupation taxes, ad valorem taxes.

– There are no outstanding judgements against the business or commercial property(owner).

– There are no current proceedings in bankruptcy instituted by or against the business or property owner and no current assignment by the business or commercial property for the benefit of creditors.

– There are no state or federal tax liens presently pending against the business or the commercial property.

– Financial ability to commit matching grants

– For the purpose of receiving the grant, a small business is a business that does not operate more than three stores in the state of Georgia nor has more than 25 employees, and further qualify under the criteria set forth below. Annual receipts for a retail or restaurant business, or personal and professional services cannot be over $3.5 million.

Here is the eligible scope of work that could be considered for a grant:

– Masonry repairs

– Storefront reconstruction

– Exterior painting and stucco

– Awnings and canopies

– Window and door repairs and replacements

– Permanent exterior lighting

– Repairs/replacement of gutters and down spouts

– Repairs to roof effecting the building façade

– Sign design and installation

– Decking and stairs

– Improvement to outdoor seating areas and landscape, not including business/personal property, equipment and supplies

– Pressure washing

– Removal of graffiti

In other business, Baylis also gave an update on businesses in the city and mentioned that The Cereal Lab and Rebel Teahouse recently opened.

She also noted that something is happening at the former Starbucks in downtown Decatur.

“They’ve covered the windows, but we don’t know what it is,” Baylis said.

The DDA will meet again on Friday, Dec. 9, at 8 a.m. at Decatur City Hall, 509 N. McDonough Street, and via Zoom.

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