The core of the downtown is the front door of the community and Downtown Chambersburg Inc. President Sam Thrush wants that door to be inviting.
With a $50,000 Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development grant in place to help pay for facade improvements, store owners will have help in sprucing up their front doors this year.
Or update their business signs, update or make repairs to the exterior of their stores or add awnings.
In August 2019, Downtown Chambersburg Inc. (DCI) applied for facade grant funding through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. In December, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the local organization was awarded money to help restore the commercial area on Main Street between Falling Spring Creek and Washington Street.
Downtown Chambersburg businesses wanting to improve the look of their store fronts this year have until April 1 to apply for the first round of facade grant money.
The grants will help restore the commercial area on Main Street between Falling Spring Creek and Washington Street.
It is expected that a total of $50,000 will be granted to 10 to 15 projects during the program’s one-year life cycle. Residential buildings are not eligible, but owners of commercial spaces or those with mixed business and residential purposes may vie for funds to spruce up fronts that face Main Street.
Each property may apply for up to two such grants per calendar year.
The purpose of the program is to encourage and support business and property owners to restore, improve or maintain the facades on their buildings.
“It makes the space attractive to prospective businesses. It makes the business attractive to customers,” Thrush said.
Awardees may earn up to $5,000 in matching funds on exterior improvements made to their buildings, though landscaping, sidewalks and paving are ineligible.
Allowable work for reimbursement includes signage, paint, brick, metal, wood or stone work, doors, windows and awnings. Applicants must acquire at least two quotes for their projects. Members of a grant review committee will make recommendations for approval to the DCI board of directors.
The deadline to apply for the first round of facade grant monies is April 1. Thrush said decisions on which projects will be funded are expected to be made before June 1. Money will be distributed a few weeks after renovations are done.
Facade-improvement programs are not a new idea in Chambersburg. Paul Cullinane successfully helped secure funds for building face-lifts when he was Main Street manager for 17 years before serving as an economic development specialist for the borough. He estimated the last time such an incentive was offered was in the early 2000s.
He is sensing excitement among property and shop owners about breathing new life into the business district.
“It’s really time now to do it again,” said Cullinane, whom Thrush describes as a mentor, on downtown matters. “If it worked well then, it likely will work again.”