After paying for extensive renovations that amounted to a new roof, entrance and restrooms, Martin Whitfield still had fish to fry at his Indianapolis seafood restaurant. The owner of Sea Kings Seafood Kitchen had plans to install a new sign, add exterior lighting and seating and paint the building a bright blue and orange, but no longer had funds for these projects.
That was until the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a community development nonprofit, stepped up with a $15,000 grant that enabled Whitfield to tackle his to-do list and create an entirely new look for his small business. LISC, which operates nonprofit organizations in 30 urban and dozens of rural areas across the United States, has awarded more than $3.1 million throughout Marion County through the Small Business Façade Improvement program.
Eligible small businesses can qualify for LISC grants of up to $25,000 that can over as much as 50 percent of the cost of improvements to a building’s street-front exterior. LISC’s facade grant program uses a combination of public and private funds to help property owners pay for new signs, entryway improvements, exterior painting and new windows. What’s more, these grants have helped leverage more than $10.6 million in investment by property owners since 1994.
Façade grants do more than just provide nonprofits and small businesses with funds to make cosmetic improvements.
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Not all façade funds are designated for small business. Plenty of funding opportunities have prepared nonprofits as well to make enhancements to their facilities. The Charles R. Wood Theater is a nonprofit, which will apply a $39,158 grant from the Local Development Corporation in Glenn Falls, N.Y., to install a catwalk to improve safety and efficiency for lighting crews setting up for shows.
Historic preservation often drives façade improvement funding. That’s the case with Paradise Garden Foundation, which will take a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to preserve a quirky wedding-cake looking structure in northwest Georgia called the World’s Folk Art Church.
The overriding theme of these incentive programs is to bring new life to physical landscapes that once had charm or put an entirely new spin on long-standing buildings that are struggling to attract visitors. Sometimes a sign is all that is needed.
Arin and Tony Lindauer put up a banner instead to save money after relocating and making significant renovations at the new site. But, it wasn’t until the owners received a $4,700 grant from LISC to pay for a sign, new windows and multi-color paint job that walk-in customers began noticing Transformation Fitness and Wellness on the corner of 25th and Delaware streets in Indianapolis. Now, the owners say they gain a customer or two each month who has driven by, noticed the sign, and stopped in.