Storefront Improvement Program

The City of East Providence is offering funding to qualified businesses for improvements to their storefronts utilizing funds awarded to the City by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses were hit particularly hard by the pandemic and this program is a means of providing long-term benefits and improvement to small businesses and the corridors where the businesses are located. Storefront grants are being offered to both owners and tenants of commercial properties to improve or restore the original character of the business' building, increase its visibility and improve the business' foot traffic. 

This program is part of a larger strategy to reinvest in our business corridors and the neighborhoods which surround them. 

The goals of the program are to

  • Bring energy to the commercial corridors of our City; 
  • Improve foot traffic for the businesses in our City; 
  • Preserve and beautify our City's commercial corridors; 
  • Create a please walking environment by improving the visual aesthetics of commercial building in our City. 

GRANT AMOUNT

Eligible commercial property owners and tenants can receive a grant up to $40,000 for eligible storefront improvements. For grant requests over $10,000, applicants are required to provide a 25% match of the amount over $10,000. Grant amounts up to $10,000 do not require a match. The match may not be met using funds from other ARPA-funded programs.

WHAT IS A STOREFRONT?

A storefront is considered the front of the building; the part that faces the street. This includes the sides of the building readily viewed by motorists and pedestrians. This program also covers interior improvements to window displays. Note that this does not include the roof.

ELIGIBLE COSTS

This program covers window repair or replacement, doors, awnings, painting, siding, window stickers, re-pointing of brick, exterior lighting, decorative architectural details such as cornices/parapet walls, sidewalk planters, window boxes, landscaping, and signage.

ELIGIBLE BUSINESSES Arts; Entertainment; Recreation; Accommodation; Food Services; Personal Care Services. Most businesses located in Qualified Census Tracts (see page 5) are eligible. If you are outside the Qualified Census Tracts, you qualify if you were a disproportionately impacted business in these industries, as defined by ARPA: Businesses outside of the Qualified Census Tracts and not in a disproportionately impacted industry might be eligible for funding through this program. Preference must be given to businesses located in low-to-moderate income areas first, per ARPA and the US Treasury.

SMALL BUSINESSES ARE DEFINED HERE AS

1. Having no more than 100 employees,

2. Being locally, independently owned and operated

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

All storefront improvements must comply with City building and zoning standards. Most businesses located in Qualified Census Tracts (see page 5) are eligible for Storefront Improvement. Businesses not located in Qualified Census Tracts must be a considered a “disproportionately impacted” business. (See Eligible Businesses section on page 2) The owner of the building must be the applicant to the program. Commercial tenants wishing to participate must do so through the property owner/with the permission of the property owner. Building owners may submit separate applications for each tenant. The owner/applicant must have no outstanding city taxes, fees, or other assessments due to the City. Chain franchises are not eligible for this program. The Planning Department reserves the right to make the final determination as to the design, appropriateness, and suitability of the improvements.

ELIGIBLE IMPROVEMENTS

Signs and awnings; Exterior lighting; Painting and/or residing with wood, stone, brick, or other appropriate exterior siding material; Window replacement and window framing; Replacement or restoration of original architectural details; Removal of elements that cover architectural details; New storefront construction within an existing building; Interior improvements to enhance window displays (lighting, etc.); ADA-compliant entryways; Murals; Planters and window boxes; Landscaping; Removal of excess asphalt to create better drainage/ add rain gardens.

 INELIGIBLE IMPROVEMENTS

Projects that are underway or were begun prior to an agreement with the City; New construction; Internally lit signs; Roof repair; Removal of architecturally significant features; 3

CONSTRUCTION All construction work must be undertaken by contractors that are licensed and insured to do business in Rhode Island. The hiring of the contractor(s) will be the responsibility of the program participant. The city will not direct owners to particular contractors. The property/ business owner must secure at least two competitive bids and then select the lowest qualified bid. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the contractor undertakes the storefront improvements in accordance with the plans approved by the City. Failure to ensure compliance will result in termination from participation in the program. Some improvements can be done by the tenant or owner.

FREE DESIGN ASSISTANCE

The Storefront Improvement Program manager can assist with designing signs, logos, paint selection, and other architectural details and choices at no additional cost to the applicant.

FINANCIAL TERMS

Eligible owners and tenants can receive a grant up to $40,000 for eligible storefront improvements. For grant requests over $10,000, applicants are required to provide a 25% match of the amount over $10,000. Grant amounts up to $10,000 do not require a match. The match may not be met using funds from other ARPA-funded programs. The applicant will receive payment in two installments: the first installment upon submission of an invoice from qualified contractors and a second payment upon completion of all proposed improvements. Under this two-installment option, the city will inspect the property before the first payment to ensure that the work has commenced and then authorize the release of the final installment upon city’s approval of work completed.

TERMINATION

The City has the right to reject the Storefront Improvement Program application or terminate any agreement if a participant is found to be in violation of any conditions set forth in these guidelines and fails to begin construction within one year of an executed agreement with the City, or has started the project prior to an executed agreement with the City. 4 Projects that do not adhere to the agreed design and concept or violate the agreement in any way will be suspended from the program, funding will cease, and a lien may be placed on the property until funds are recovered.

Businesses located in these census tracts will have higher priority for funding, per ARPA and the U.S. Treasury: 103 104 106 102 105.01

EAST PROVIDENCE CENSUS TRACT - View an easier-to-read version of this map

TIMELINE FOR GETTING STARTED

Applicant submits an application with required materials including a plan/sketch/photos or in the instance of larger projects a detailed set of drawings demonstrating the proposed work. The applicant meets with Storefront Improvement Manager to explore design options. Property is evaluated for feasibility and eligibility Plans and design are reviewed for approval. City issues letter of conditional approval. The owner obtains all necessary permits. The owner secures bids from at least two qualified contractors. The owner informs the Storefront Improvement Manager of the lowest qualified bid and submits copies of all bids received. The owner enters into an agreement with the city. Initial payment is made to the applicant and work commences.

TIMELINE FOR GETTING STARTED

APPLICATION CHECKLIST

Use this checklist to help you remember all the pieces you need to submit with your Storefront Improvement application. Remember to include this checklist with your submission.

  • Completed application
  • Application Checklist (this form)
  • Copy of property deed
  • Copy of lease (if occupied by a tenant)
  • Project description A written statement of what the Storefront Improvement project will involve. Provide as much detail as possible, including what you are changing or replacing, the types of materials to be used, colors, etc.
  • Drawings of proposed Storefront Improvement A concept drawing of what the storefront will look like after work is completed. For larger projects, include site plans. For smaller projects, a simple sketch may be appropriate. The sketch must include sufficient detail, including product sample sheets of design elements such as windows, doors, lighting, awnings, colors, type of materials. Note: The Storefront Improvement Manager can work with you to help you create these renderings

Applications will be accepted until Dec. 31, 2024

The online application form is available below. You may also mail a paper copy of the application and supporting materials to: East Providence City 
Hall, Planning and Economic Development Department, 145 Taunton Ave. East Providence, RI 02914.

 

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