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.