Matching grants offered to businesses

CARLSBAD — On Dec. 8 City Council approved a matching grant program designed to encourage businesses in the downtown village area to beautify their storefronts with new lighting, signage and other improvements.
Under the program approved by the council, business owners who apply for the grants can receive a maximum of $15,000 to pay for materials, equipment and supplies needed to spruce up their facades. The grants cannot be used for labor costs, and the businesses will have to match the city grants dollar for dollar with their own investments, either in cash or through “sweat equity.”
City staff estimate that, depending on the amounts of the individual grants, the initial allocation of $300,000 will pay for 16 or 17 façade improvements in the downtown village area, which encompasses some 200 acres in central Carlsbad. Based on the success of the initial allocation, the program could be expanded in the future.
“The Carlsbad village has a unique mix of retail, restaurants and other businesses, with charm and ambiance unmatched by any downtown center in San Diego County,” said Debbie Fountain, Carlsbad’s housing and redevelopment director. “The economy has impacted the ability of small businesses to carry out improvement projects on their own. This grant program represents a partnership of the city’s redevelopment agency with local businesses for the betterment of the entire downtown business community.”
Funding for the program will come from the Village Redevelopment Operations Fund, which must be used for improvements within the redevelopment area. Only businesses located with the boundaries of the village area are eligible for the grants.
Among the priorities for the program is new lighting of shop windows that will enhance the village’s appeal to nighttime visitors. Other acceptable projects include painting; signage; canopies or marquees; animation of storefront windows; and landscaping, such as window boxes, hanging planters or storefront plants.
As part of the program, businesses will be able to consult with a commercial storefront contractor to help them determine the best and most cost-effective improvements for their individual businesses.
Grants are expected to be awarded soon after the first of the year and improvements anticipated to begin by the spring of 2010.
The city’s goal in making the grants is to reinvest in the downtown business core and encourage additional private investment, which will in turn improve the appearance and accessibility of village businesses and attract new visitors.
Businesses can learn more about the program and obtain an application by calling the Carlsbad Redevelopment Agency at (760) 434-2810 or visiting www.carlsbadca.gov/redevelopment.

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