Champaign City Council to discuss storefront-improvement program

Champaign City Council to discuss storefront-improvement program

CHAMPAIGN — City administrators this week are set to introduce a storefront-improvement program for which retail buildings in the downtown and midtown areas would be eligible for up to $10,000 in city assistance to help with renovations of ground floors and facades.

City council members are scheduled to discuss the program when they meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St. The council would need to approve the program before administrators may move forward.

In a memo to the council, administrators say property owners in the past three decades used tax-increment-financing-district incentive programs to renovate upper-floor residential space and make structural repairs but passed on restoring storefronts.

Business tenants are not quick to jump on expensive ground-floor renovations to rental properties, either.

"Storefronts are a vital part of a successful business, but they also represent a large investment by that business," the memo said. "Oftentimes, these investments are deferred when the retail tenant does not own the building and don't wish to make that investment in a rental property."

As proposed, the city's program would offer a 50 percent matching grant for property owners who want to make ground-floor improvements in the two TIF districts. Officials would also offer 25 percent in matching funds for those who want to make facade improvements on their upper floors.

The maximum grant to any one building would not exceed $10,000. City officials have budgeted $80,000 for the program in the downtown TIF district and up to $30,000 in the East University Avenue district, also known as "midtown."

Only buildings that were constructed before 1940 would be eligible for the grants, according to the memo.

, and the focus of the program is to restore storefronts to their original appearance.