The facade improvement grants will cover up to 85% of eligible costs – like new lighting, fresh paint, or improved signage. Tacony CDC is offering these grants in partnership with the Commerce Department’s Storefront Improvement Program for any commercial property between the 6300- and 7200-blocks of Torresdale Avenue. [grant guidelines pdf] Grant recipients will event get a free design consultation courtesy of the Community Design Collaborative’s rStore Program [pdf]. Property owners have until June 25 to apply.
The grant program comes as part of a larger effort by Tacony CDC to strengthen Tacony’s commercial spine by improving Torresdale Avenue’s physical appearance, making it a safer and cleaner environment, and encouraging economic development.
Tacony CDC’s Commercial Corridor Manager, Alex Balloon, took me for a walk on the avenue this week to talk about the CDC’s “Main Street” approach and how the CDC and its volunteer teams are working to make Torresdale Avenue a more vibrant, attractive commercial corridor by supporting the existing businesses.
“We get 16,000 cars a day on Torresdale Avenue. That’s like Walnut Street in Center City,” Balloon said. So how can businesses along the avenue encourage people to stop in?
Enter the façade grants, which the CDC hopes will help freshen up the appearance of the Avenue’s storefronts to attract both shoppers and new businesses to fill commercial vacancies.
Even though the grants were just announced June 1, Balloon says interest is strong already. He’s been going door-to-door (even with fliers in Mandarin Chinese) to promote the grants and within hours property owners have gotten in touch wanting more information.
Over time, the hope is to encourage property owners to take more collective ownership of Torresdale Avenue as a commercial district. The CDC is trying to remind business owners “this is your environment,” as Balloon explained. And they’re starting out small. As part of this spring’s cleanup day, volunteers planted flowers in 22 of the avenue’s empty tree pits, which await new trees. And some businesses have taken on the charge of caring for these flowers in front of their stores.
Mark Whited, owner of Bulls-Eye Darts, told me that he thinks Torresdale Avenue has a lot going for it – from good transportation and specialty shops like his – but that there’s certainly room for improvement, particularly in terms of improving safety and life after dark. He expressed cautious optimism about Tacony CDC’s efforts to enhance the corridor, saying “It would be great if everybody could get together as a group, but it’s hard.”
Eyes on the Street will check back in with the Tacony CDC to follow along as the façade improvement project moves forward this year.