May 17, 2007 |

Pathways grants offered for improvements

By JOHN McCALLUM

Editor

Cheney's Pathways to Progress has restarted a program to provide funding for downtown business owners who would like to fix up their storefronts, but don't have the money to do so.

The Façade Enhancement Grant Program was originally offered in 2003, providing several $1,000 and $500 grants to businesses looking to spruce up their fronts. Pathways director Charles Dotson said several businesses, such as the current Eagles Pub, and the 502 First Street building took advantage of the funding to redo their facades.

Their effort encouraged other owners to use their own money to improve their storefronts, but since then, Dotson said downtown store revitalization has fallen off. The Pathways board decided now would be a good time to reinvigorate the enhancement effort by offering the grant program again.

“We hadn't seen anything else come along so we decided to salt this process,” Dotson said.

In 2003 Pathways not only put up $1,500 of their own money but also got a matching grant from the Spokane Preservation Advocates to help sweeten the pot and allow more businesses to take advantage of the funding.

This year, Pathways has two grants available, one for $1,000 and one for $500, but are hoping to come through with matching funds from another organization soon, Dotson said, to be able to duplicate the 2003 funding – if not more.

To be eligible, downtown business owners must submit their grant application by June 30, with awards being made by July 22 and all work being completed by Oct. 31.

Applicants must also submit a list of contractors capable of estimating, designing and producing financing options as part of the process, making the grants more beneficial to business owners who already have façade improvements in mind, but are facing cost issues.

“A grant like this would be just enough to get them over the hump,” Dotson said.

Grant applicants would also be required to conform to a set of downtown design guidelines developed by Pathways in 2003. The guidelines are oriented towards a more historical look for Cheney, and include such things as what kind of accoutrements could go outside, what signage may look like, and color schemes.

“They're not really stringent guidelines,” Dotson said. “They're just kind of common sense things.”

Dotson said Pathways has a business resource kit to help owners with guidelines, and that Pathways staff will provide technical support throughout the enhancement process. Grant applications are available by contacting the Pathways office at 559-5818.

Pathways to Progress is a non-profit organization aimed at helping and promoting the revitalization of downtown Cheney businesses, and is a collaboration between the city of Cheney, Eastern Washington University and the downtown business community.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com

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