Facade money is going to waste

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

It’s not often that the city government gives away money.

But it’s even less often that prospective recipients of such a windfall ignore the opportunity.

That’s what seems to be happening with the Industrial Development Authority’s facade improvement program, a $50,000 pot of money that gives eligible businesses matching grants of up to $10,000 for exterior improvements. In essence, it’s a way for businesses to get new awnings, signs, fences or window replacements – at half the price.

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Commercial property owners in any part of the city that has an adopted neighborhood initiative or village plan are eligible, with funds being doled out on a first-come, first-serve basis. But so far, just two businesses – Garcia Development and Baron’s Pub – have taken advantage of the program.

As new businesses continue to move into Suffolk – particularly into the thriving downtown community – this is a chance for older, established businesses to get a facelift.

What’s more, businesses whose owners chose not to make necessary facade improvements will pay the price in the long run. As the number of residents and visitors coming into Suffolk grows, so does the amount of money those people will be spending on food, clothes, medications and the like. And when it comes to making decisions on where to shop, you can be sure that first appearances do make a difference.

With no strings attached – other than paying for half of the facade improvements – business owners are missing a golden opportunity by not taking advantage of the facade improvement program.