UPTOWN — Good looks aren't everything, but they can definitely go a long way — especially when it comes to the outside of a small business. That's why economic development organization Uptown United decided to roll out a program to help fund local business owners' efforts to beautify their shops.
“What we think it can really do is help a business present a more inviting image to the community by sprucing up its outside,” said Uptown United President Alyssa Berman-Cutler. “Maybe a new sign or planters, something that really shows off what the community is about and invites the community in.”
The Business Beautification Rebate Program aims to upgrade the appearance of Uptown businesses and "improve the local business setting for individual investors," according to a news release.
Business owners can apply for a rebate to pay for 50 percent of the cost of improvements (with a $5,000 rebate limit) to preserve or restore their storefront and display windows, or install creative signage.
Uptown United is also urging business owners to get rebates on smaller projects in the $500-$1,500 range. The program is funded by the Uptown Special Service Area #34, which is administered by Uptown United.
Eligible businesses have to be within the SSA boundaries, and the program is first-come, first-serve, with about $15,000 available. However, Berman-Cutler said there's a possibility more funds could be thrown into the pool.
She said Uptown United wants businesses around Lawrence and Broadway to incorporate elements that mesh with the group’s vision of a booming entertainment district.
She said Uptown United is encouraging bright signage.
"Things that really add to the energy — and nighttime energy especially of the place,” Berman-Cutler said.
The organization is also launching a security camera rebate program for businesses and property owners looking to install cameras in sidewalks or alleys.
And business owners in the Wilson Yard tax increment finance district looking to improve their businesses also have until Monday to apply for a Small Business Improvement Fund grant through the city.
Last year, in the Lawrence/Broadway TIF district, Crew Bar and Grill completed a $90,000 renovation with help from the grant to the tune of $50,000. Funds for the Lawrence/Broadway TIF district will be available in the spring.