Champaign council supports city funds for storefront restorations

CHAMPAIGN — Businesses in the city’s downtown and midtown areas likely will be able to start applying for city assistance to improve their storefronts and facades after city council members supported the program Tuesday night.

The goal is to help retail tenants or building owners who might not be able to afford expensive renovations to improve their outward appearance and restore some of the historic value that has been lost over the years, city planner T.J. Blakeman said.

“Storefronts represent that business’ billboard,” Blakeman said.

Only buildings that are built before 1940 would be eligible for up to $10,000 in city assistance. The money will come from special accounts that hold property taxes that must be reinvested in the districts they came from — in this case, the downtown and East University Avenue tax-increment-financing districts.

Only properties in those two districts are eligible, and only certain projects would be eligible for reimbursement. Essentially, projects that are not viewed from the public way or regular maintenance would not qualify for city assistance.

The city will pay out a 50 percent match for ground-floor, storefront restoration projects and a 25 percent match for upper-level facade improvements up to a maximum $10,000 for any one building. 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.”

William Jones, owner of the Rose and Taylor Barber and Beauty Shop on North First Street, said he hopes some of that money will go to minority business owners.

Don Elmore, co-owner of Jane Addams Book Shop, said it’s a “perfect” package for his business.

“We’re certainly motivated to maintain the architectural and aesthetic integrity of the downtown area,” he said.

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EL YATIRI wrote on August 15, 2012 at 5:08 am
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I thought the police just survived a budget crisis without cutting staff.  Taxes were raised to do so when campaign promises were that they wouldn't be.

Now the politicians need to find ways to spend the money, they will be sure to raise taxes later when they can't meet payroll.

Why do these particular businesses need taxpayer support?  Are they not profitable? 

The politicians have forgotten all the renovations and ideas for downtown that didn't work in the past.

We all pay taxes but politicians favor their friends with public money.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 15, 2012 at 6:08 am
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TIF money comes out of other taxing bodies (in theory). You know, like schools, and parks.

 

That's why you face referenda seeking new taxes to pay -- for example -- for new school buildings. And new swimming pools.

Sid Saltfork wrote on August 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Yes; add to that state grants to pay for the new recreational building volleyball courts, and Urbana's swimming pool "water feature".  Remember all of the outcry that the state is broke?  It is an endless outflow of spending.  The state is broke.  Yet, the state gives grants for campaign donations, and votes to the municipalities while not paying the employer portion into the employee pension systems, and decreasing public services.  The municipalities couple the grants with new tax monies to fund whims, and follies while at the same time not funding public services, and their employee pension systems.  It has been going on for years.  It is like a family with holes in the roof of their house buying new furniture.  It will not stop until the citizens demand no more "bread and circuses".  Stop the spending on non-necessities.