A few months back, we made the exciting announcement that the DMI Facade Improvement Grant program had been recapitalized. This leads to the inevitable question... what is a facade grant and why is it so exciting?
When we look at ways to move downtown development forward, one economic development-based approach is to stimulate investment by offering project incentives. Most people know incentive-based economic development from tax abatement projects giving to large employers expanding or relocating to an area. Communities often compete for large projects and they use these types of incentives to encourage developers to choose their site over another.
In downtown development, we look at incentives a bit differently. We aren't competing for an Amazon distribution center, but we are constantly looking at ways to drive the community forward. One way to do that is to incentivize property development to encourage either new building owners or current owners to make new investments. While a tax abatement is a longer-term decrease in income a community receives, a grant for development is a one-time matching investment that spurs improvements now.
Twenty years ago, DMI launched the Facade Improvement Grant Program with funding from the Richland County Commissioners and proceeds from a series of rock concerts and events held in downtown Mansfield. The concept of the program was to provide direct incentives for owners to invest in their buildings. As a historic downtown, the buildings are the backdrop for the community and serve as multi-generational opportunities for business growth. Throughout a decade, the program provided grants totaling over $60K which leveraged over $600K in investment into 36 buildings downtown. Projects such as Uncle Johns Place, Athen's Greek Restaurant, Richland Carrousel Park, and more were recipients of the DMI facade grant.
We once again have an opportunity to encourage investment in the downtown built environment, encourage new property ownership, and provide incentives to current property owners for updating the facades of their buildings. With funding from both the City of Mansfield's Downtown Improvement Board (people who advise on projects to be funded through the $5 license plate fee) and the Richland County Foundation's Mansfield Rising Funds the project now has steady and reliable funding through 2023.
Building owners and tenants in buildings located in downtown Mansfield between 1st & 6th Street, Adams & Bowman are eligible to apply. The facade is merely the public face of the building and the funding can go for a variety of items such as signage, window repair and update, point and tuck brickwork, storefront upgrades, etc. Grant amounts are based on total project costs. Projects with a total cost of under $20K can apply for a grant of up to $2500, but not more than 50% of the total cost of the project. Projects with a total cost of $20K and over can apply for $5K.
We are only a few months in and I've already worked with about 10 property owners on potential projects and the facade committee has approved three grants. Providing incentives for development make sense when you are leveraging assets to get where you want to go faster. An improved downtown Mansfield is good for everyone, and it takes all of us to get there.
Big thanks to the Richland County Foundation & the City of Mansfield for your support on this project. If you are interested in learning more about this project, or you would like to apply, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.