Facade Improvement Program
What is the Downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck Facade Improvement Program?
The Westerly-Pawcatuck Facade Improvement Program is a systematic approach to assist property owners and businesses with upgrading building exteriors to create a positive visual impact, stimulate private investments and complement other community revitalization efforts. It is part of a broader downtown revitalization strategy by the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce, as improvements to commercial buildings can directly benefit the business district, both visually and economically. Through The Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation, funding is available, and through The Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce, technical and design expertise is available. With this coordinated support, the Downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck Facade Improvement Program will leverage private improvements while making revitalization efforts affordable, creative and community-based. Specific duties of the committee include:
- evaluate interest in facade improvements with property and business owners in the historic downtown district
- coordinate the application process
- seek public assistance for funding and technical assistance
- coordinate and review design concepts
- make recommendations of local contractors, allowing multiple bids to be secured
- ensure the improvements are to the benefit of the local business and the community in general
What are the goals of the Downtown Westerly Facade Improvement Program?
The goals of the program are as follows:
1. Enhance the overall look of the historic downtown district, and improve areas that are visible from the public way.
2. Support a coordinated approach to have the two-state downtown appear as one charming, well-maintained, vibrant and unified business district.
3. Support the existing business base and attract new business interests by providing financial incentives that help them stay/locate in historic downtown.
4. Support the local economy by creating projects that engage local contractors, with preference given to members of the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce.
How Much Money is Available and Where Does the Funding Come From?
In total, $7,000 is available for funding. An initial $3,000 was contributed by the Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation and then a $4,000 grant was awarded by Keepspace Westerly to support this program. The program offers up to $500, or 50% of a total project cost (whichever is less), in matching funds to businesses and building owners in downtown Westerly in order to improve the appearance of individual building facades, signs and awnings.
Who Administers the Downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck Facade Improvement Program?
The Downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck Facade Improvement Program is administered by the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce through its non-profit, 501©3 entity, the Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation. The Facade Improvement Committee is made up of the Chamber Executive Director, the Downtown Business Association President, a Westerly Town Council member, the Stonington First Selectman, business owners, some of whom have design, paint and signage expertise, and others who just want to improve the physical appearance of our historic downtown.
Who can apply for funding?
Any building owner or store proprietor/tenant with lease authority or authorization from the owner can apply for funding. The project site must be located in the historic downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck business district. (See map of downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck below.) Tenants must have a minimum of two years remaining on their lease or an option to renew.
What types of improvements are eligible for funding?
- Paint – exterior of building only
- Signs - new, repairs, replacements, removal
- Awnings -new, repairs, replacements
- Door/window replacement or repair
If repairs or replacements are the result of an incident that would be eligible for insurance coverage, only the portion of the project that is NOT covered by insurance would be considered for funding support. Proof of insurance and specific amount being covered by insurance is required in this instance.
The following projects are specifically excluded: New construction, national franchises, and properties that are entirely residential in use.
Are there any design guidelines?
Projects must conform to the Westerly or Stonington Zoning Code (as may be amended). Projects that reflect the historic nature of downtown and enhance the aesthetics of the community with complimentary color schemes will be looked upon favorably. Design and color assistance is available from local business experts by contacting The Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce.
How is the money awarded?
This is a matching grant program, which means that the applicant pays a portion of the improvement and the Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation pays a portion. The amount of the match must be at least 1:1 -- the applicant pays $1 and the Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation pays $1. However, there is a maximum grant contribution by The Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation of $500 per project.
The Facade Improvement Committee seeks to help a variety of different businesses downtown. For that reason, a business is eligible to apply for a maximum of 2 separate grants per year. As an example, an awning project may constitute one grant, a new sign may constitute a second grant. A maximum of $1,000 per business may be allocated.
Work completed prior to letter of commitment is not eligible for funding. Grant funds are disbursed on a reimbursement basis and cannot be issued until the proposed project has been completed. Before a check is cut, the Facade Improvement Committee must review the completed project to determine that the actual work performed was the work approved.
How does the application process work?
Applicants should complete an application which includes architectural drawings, color samples, cost estimates and a minimum of 2 bids. It is strongly recommended that applicants utilize the services of members of the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce (see www.westerlychamber.org for complete list of contractors). Assistance is available at no cost to assist applicants in helping develop a proposal. Contact Lisa Konicki at The Chamber at 401-596-7761 for more information.
Following review and approval of the application, the applicant will receive a letter of commitment from the Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation. The applicant can then proceed with necessary permitting and Town review processes. Funds will be released to the applicant upon completion, inspection and documentation of matching funds.
If an application is denied, a new application can be submitted during the next funding round.
What is the application deadline? Timeline for Approvals and Payment?
The first deadline is May 11, 2012 at 12 noon. All applicants will be notified of their award or denial of award by May 28, 2012. If all $7,000 in funding has not been awarded, a second application deadline will be July 6, 2012 at 12 noon. Those applicants would be notified of their award or denial of award by July 20, 2012. If there are still funds remaining after the second round, a third round of dates will be established. All funds will remain in the account dedicated to this program until they are dispersed for projects that meet the criteria. The next deadline to apply is September 1, 2012 at 12noon.
How are projects selected for funding?
Applications will be reviewed and selected based on their impact on the district and the compatibility with the vision and goals of The Facade Improvement Committee. Priority will be given to buildings that presently have a business operating within, or have a signed lease that will allow a business to be operating at that location within 5 months of award date.
What happens after a project is selected for funding?
Work selected for a matching grant must be completed within 5 months of approval of the application. The applicant is responsible for obtaining all building permits and any other required permits for the work to be done. The applicant is responsible for conformance with all applicable safety standards and conditions. The applicant also agrees to maintain the property and improvement.
The Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation and/or Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce may promote an approved project including, but not limited to, displaying a sign at the site, during and after construction, and using photographs and descriptions of the project in materials, on the web site, etc.
Note: The Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce reserves the right to make changes in the conditions of the Facade Improvement Program as warranted.