Business owners in downtown Des Plaines can now apply for city grants for outdoor awnings and renovations up to $40,000.
Officials approved new guidelines and combined the city’s Façade Improvement and Downtown Business Assistance programs into a downtown business grant package at the City Council meeting Monday. Funds for the programs come from Des Plaines’ District 1 TIF funds, or Tax Increment Financing funds. TIF funds’ purpose is to promote business growth in specific areas.
Owners can get up to $5,000 for a new awning, $20,000 for exterior storefront restorations, and up to $15,000 for interior renovations, said Michael Bartholomew, director of Community and Economic Development.
Individual businesses can apply once for each program and must generate either sales tax or food and beverage taxes.
Aldermen Jim Brookman (Fifth Ward), Dan Wilson (Seventh Ward), and Mike Charewicz (Eighth Ward) disagreed with making only tax-generating businesses eligible for the programs.
“People will look at downtown’s appearance as a whole, not by who is generating taxes,” Brookman said.
The purpose of the programs was to make downtown more attractive overall, he said.
Previously, business owners could apply for a rebate based on a percentage of the total cost of their project, and every owner in the downtown district was eligible.
Bartholomew said a streamlined approach would cut down on wait time and bureaucracy for existing businesses in the area. Realtors can market the incentive package to buyers and bring more businesses downtown, he said.
City staff members will approve project applications amounting to less than $10,000, Bartholomew said. Projects with bigger price tags would have to be presented to the Economic Development Commission and City Council members.
Fourth Ward Alderman Dick Sayad said he wanted council members to “double-check” all applications regardless of project costs, adding that problems arose when council members didn’t see project costs and applicant names until after the applications had been approved.
A combined total of $150,000 was approved in the 2012 budget for all three programs. Applications for the programs are accepted until funds run out.