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.