Clayton leaders are revisiting their downtown façade-improvement program, with thoughts of larger grants and expanding the appearance initiative to U.S. 70 Business.
Since 2008, Clayton has awarded grants to downtown businesses that give their storefronts makeovers. To date, the town has added about $55,800 in public funds to total private investment of more than $307,000.
Several Town Council members say the grant program, created to spur storefront makeovers downtown, could do the same along the U.S. 70 Business corridor.
Councilman Art Holder said the town essentially has two “Main Streets,” the actual Main Street that runs through downtown and U.S. 70 Business, a main artery for drivers traveling west toward Raleigh or east toward Smithfield.
“Although the programs would probably not be the same, because there are different needs, it’s time to recognize that we need to start doing something for (U.S. 70 Business),” Holder said.
An improvement program along the highway would likely focus on landscaping and smaller buildings. Holder said outdoor dining areas at restaurants are an example of potential improvements.
Councilman Bob Satterfield, who owns Signage of the Carolinas on Main Street, agreed that the town could do more along U.S. 70. But it’s important, he said, to maintain the existing downtown initiatives.
“At the end of the day, (U.S. 70 Business) has the traffic, and Main Street doesn’t have the traffic,” Satterfield said.
Town Manager Steve Biggs said he expects the Town Council to consider the U.S. 70 Business corridor on May 5, as part of a broader discussion on the façade-improvement grants.
While the program’s 22 projects have furthered the town’s goal of improving downtown’s appearance, no businesses used the $20,000 set aside for façade grants this fiscal year.
The program currently reimburses 50 percent of a project’s cost, up to $5,000. That’s less than the 75 percent offered in the run-up to Clayton hosting the 2012 N.C. Main Street Conference, Biggs said.
Biggs’ staff says tweaking the façade formula to include larger grants could entice downtown business owners who have yet to use the program. Of the nearly 70 buildings downtown, about 20 “could stand some level of façade improvement,” according to a memo from planning director David DeYoung and downtown coordinator Bruce Naegelen.
DeYoung and Naegelen recommended the façade formula change from 50 percent to not less than 50 percent and no more than 75 percent.
But before the council votes on a potentially higher cost share, Biggs said he wants to gauge the interest of business owners.
“If I’m an elected official, I would say, ‘If we approve this, what difference would it make?’” Biggs said.
Naegelen said the grant program has been successful. “We’ve done about half of the buildings over the years that have needed something,” he said.
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