Populating Downtown Storefronts A Goal For JRC Block Projects

The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation has launched a program to populate downtown storefronts.

The corporation is now accepting applications for its Business Development Assistance Program to encourage property owners and merchants to work together to improve downtown buildings to attract established businesses to street-level locations.

Greg Lindquist, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation executive director, said the building improvement program offers matching grants and financial incentives that will build upon the success of the Downtown Renaissance Block Challenge initiated last year. Building improvements must fall within one or more of the following categories: facade and signage improvements; upper-floor renovations or building access; interior retail space enhancements; or streetscape improvements. The work is expected to improve the appearance and utilization of buildings, and attract new tenants.

”Proposed improvements should maximize the impact of downtown investments by linking multiple projects together,” Lindquist said. ”It asks downtown stakeholders to be proactive about identifying and addressing the needs of their buildings, businesses and blocks. The buildings in a proposed project do not have to be contiguous, but they do need to be closely situated.”

Two new incentives have been added this year to attract established businesses to downtown. The JRC will offer a commercial lease and a broker/building owner incentive as a combined approach to attract successful businesses to downtown. This investment will include a flexible lease incentive for established businesses that desire to locate downtown and an incentive for each business that a building owner or real estate broker successfully locates downtown.

”Over the past few years, JRC, its partners and downtown building owners have made large investments in the bricks and mortar of downtown. The stage is now set for the JRC to begin investment in bringing established trade to the downtown,” Lindquist said.

”For 2014, the lease and broker incentives will target retail and restaurant businesses that have been established for at least two years,” Lindquist added. “However, start-up businesses may apply if they have developed a solid business plan and have prior operational experience in the business they desire to establish. We believe that downtown has sufficient market capacity to support and grow new retail and restaurant activity.”

The 2013 downtown clusters include Carlson’s Jewelry, Jochum Business Systems, Holmlund’s Wallpaper, Field & Wright Building, Infinity Visual and Performing Arts, Mariner’s Pier Express, Reg Lenna Theater, Dugan’s Tavern, buildings located at 212 N. Main St., 12 E. Second St., 24 E. Third St., 106-110 E. Second St., and a city parking lot. The renovations to these areas range from facade improvements and rehabilitation to the public murals, marquee improvements and more.

Preliminary applications for this year’s downtown block challenge are now available and must be submitted by March 20. Applications will involve two steps. The preliminary application must describe, in general terms, a group’s proposed projects. Groups that meet the program’s requirements will be asked to submit a more detailed application. The chosen blocks will then be announced in May.

Applications for the rental incentive and broker incentive will be accepted on a rolling basis until all funds are committed. Corporation business development incentives may be used individually or combined to improve success of a project.

Jamestown Renaissance Corporation will provide up to $20,000 in matching funds for each block project and up to $30,000 in matching funds for buildings with multiple projects. To fill storefronts, $5,000 is available for rental incentives and $1,000 for broker incentives. While funding from other sources can be used, there must be private capital investment in each project.

Corporation officials anticipate the new incentives will be available in coming years and encourages those that have just established or are considering a new business downtown to work with the Small Business Development Center at Jamestown Community College to fine tune and develop their business plans so that they are prepared for the next incentive round.

”We recognize that there is a strong entrepreneurial spirit in the Greater Jamestown area and we want to promote this spirit,” Lindquist said.

The corporation also offers small business lending available for existing and new business in the central business district.

”The JRC Small Business Loan Program offers lending up to $5,000 at a 5 percent fixed rate of interest. Loans can be used for building and leasehold improvements, equipment, inventory and working capital,” Lindquist said. ”A healthy downtown has property and business owners who recognize the value-added impact when working together to improve the worth and profitability of their enterprises. When investment happens on a coordinated basis, the impacts are more visible and long-lasting.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the program or receiving application materials should contact Lindquist at 664-2477, extension 223, or at glindquist@jamestownrenaissance.org. Program guidelines can be viewed at www.jamestownrenaissance.org.