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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Stores, service businesses, and offices in the area of French Street and the surrounding area may qualify to receive grants of up to $20,000 to invest in “facade” improvements to the exterior of their buildings.
The program allows the city government to match the investment of individual businesses that want to improve their storefronts.
According to a press release from City Hall, the new program is intended to help small businesses purchase sleek new awnings, replace store windows, streamline signage, and otherwise resurface building façades.
However, only properties within a subsection of the “Esperanza” neighborhood are eligible for these grants, specifically those located south of downtown, between Somerset Street and Joyce Kilmer Avenue.
Business owners must kick in at least $2,000 of their own money to be eligible for a specific project (must cost a total of at least $4,000 after completion), and they will not get any matching funds from the city until it is completely finished.
That means they must have enough working capital to cover all costs associated with the improvements, or borrow money from elsewhere to retain any contractors or architects, for example, until after recieving the grant.
“The purpose of this grant is to give businesses owners the chance to address larger-scale improvements in the appearance of their establishment,” said Jennifer Bradshaw, the city’s Public Information Officer.
While grants are open to all commercial properties, auto body and repair and industrial properties are excluded from the Facade Grant Program.
All applications will be reviewed by City Council, and if approved, the applicant will enter into a contract with the City for the funding.
“The contract will describe the grant terms and conditions in detail,” reads a city of New Brunswick news release, which includes examples of project budgets, and an invoice that owners would submit to the city including contractor invoices and the cost of any construction permits or approvals.
There is no fee to apply, but the city has not yet received any applications for grants, it says.
“Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis as long as the money is available,” says Bradshaw. “There isn’t a deadline.”
When the store-front is upgraded and work is all done, the owner will turn in paperwork before receiving his or her grant funds.
“Upon completion of the project, the funded applicant will submit an invoice and backup documentation showing the expenditure of the project funds,” reads the release.
A business is not eligible for grant funding if it has received a façade grant in the last five years.
Here are some other requirements outlined by the city:
- The applicant and/or property owner is current on all property taxes.
- If the applicant is a tenant, the property owner must acknowledge their approval of the proposed project. The application form provides an approval sign off for the owner, if applicable.
- The applicant and/or property owner has no outstanding zoning, construction code or property maintenance violation notices or summonses related to the property to receive funding.
- Change orders increasing the project cost above the original project approval costs are the applicant’s responsibility. If change orders reduce the cost of the project, the grant award will be reduced to reflect the reduced project cost.