BUSINESS NEWS -Businesses spruce up with neighborhood cash

In Kingfield, more than $300,000 of NRP money helps beautify and improve storefronts

Kingfield neighborhood business owners said making modifications to their exteriors — whether imperative or purely cosmetic — can be time-consuming, safety-impairing, revenue-reducing and most of all, expensive.

But several owners found that the Kingfield Neighborhood Association was a useful resource in helping make improvements that would have otherwise been impossible.

Rami Wadi, owner of Best Food Market, 3756 Nicollet Ave. S., said he’s wanted to change his store’s exterior for years. "It’s not as professional as I want it to be," he said.

This summer, Wadi said, his store needed new air conditioners, costing $8,000 that he hadn’t planned on spending. "Every summer, I’ve been wanting to do something, but every summer something comes up," he said.

However, after a Kingfield staff person told nearby business owners about KFNA’s Business Faade Improvement Program (BFIP), Wadi said he went to a meeting to get more information.

He was eventually accepted into the program, funded through Kingfield’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program funds. All told, the neighborhood has allocated almost $330,000 of Neighborhood Revitalization Program money to business beautification. Wadi eventually received two $12,500 grants from KFNA, paying most of his $32,000 project.

Wadi said that with KFNA’s help, he has plans for a new building design featuring taller windows, a new door, a new awning and many new exterior light fixtures. "I think it will really give a different identity to the store, and increase the business," he said.

Soo Chang, co-owner of Colonial Cleaners, 3701 Lyndale Ave. S., said she and her husband Whan have owned the building for the last 11 years and have been meaning to make improvements. "Since I own the building, I’d like to improve it, and the grant was very attractive," she said.

Chang said her $58,000 renovation project far exceeded her $12,500 grant from Kingfield, but the grant was still a great help. "It improves the value and the look of the building," she said.

Chang got rid of the building’s aluminum siding and replaced it with stucco, she said. Colonial also added columns next to the door, new windows and shutters and a new awning with gooseneck lamps above it. Chang said that she’s sure the changes will attract more business.

Dave Motzenbecker, KFNA Redevelopment Committee chair, said improving area businesses benefits all. "For the residents of the neighborhood, creating these types of business nodes is beneficial," he said. "Also, if you make the businesses look more inviting, more people will come."

The program’s original $328,367 grant pool was divided into matching grants of no more than $12,500 per property, Motzenbecker said. "We were encouraging people to go for the whole thing," he said.

So how did Wadi get $25,000?

KFNA staffer Liz Gibson-Gasset said the redevelopment committee — made up of neighborhood residents with professional experience in architecture, landscape architecture and housing — created a special "redevelopment zone" within Kingfield.

In the zone, centered on the 38th & Nicollet intersection, KFNA matched the $12,500 grant, giving businesses $25,000.

"We thought it would make the biggest impact if it were consolidated into one area," Gibson-Gasset said.

Some question whether nearly a third of a million dollars spent on business fronts is a wise use of NRP dollars. Gregory Luce, director of Project 504, a tenants’ rights organization, said that bigger neighborhood needs exist. "Most of the money should be used for low-income housing," he said.

Luce said that at least, the money should be spent on businesses low-income tenants patronize.

Motzenbecker said that the renovations fit NRP’s goals perfectly, with an emphasis on revitalization. "Business faades fit perfectly into that ideology," he said.

Motzenbecker said it will revive the neighborhood by bringing businesses more money and increasing safety on the street.

To encourage business owners to use the program, Gibson-Gasset said the neighborhood had a landscape architect draw up ideas for redevelopment-zone businesses.

Motzenbecker said the association advertised the program, promoted it at their annual meeting in their newsletter and their website.

At first, Motzenbecker said, business owners didn’t show much interest; however, as the deadline crept closer, so many applications piled in that the committee prioritized grants by need.

Gibson-Gasset said most projects approved this year are still in their planning stages, but will be completed by spring 2003.

Niki Valens, owner of Victor’s 1959 Caf, 3756 Grand Ave., said she was one of the first to apply this year for the BFIP grant. "We’ve been meaning to replace the windows since we got the place," she said.

Valens said that last January, she had some bids prepared for the renovation. "In the winter, there was a terrible draft, and customers had to eat their breakfast with their coats on," she said.

Valens said the building also got new trim, which she plans to paint once the weather improves, and also new window boxes. Old air-conditioning units were also replaced with picture windows.

Valens said she had planned out the project, so she only applied for the $3,550 matching grant to cover improvements totaling $7,100. "I don’t think I would have been able to do it, without the 50 percent matching grant," she said, "The people at Kingfield were very helpful."

It’s important for the businesses to look nice, Valens said. "The businesses are extensions of homes and the neighborhood," she said.

Valens said she hopes the grant program continues next year: "There’s still a lot of work that has to be done in the business nodes."

Gibson-Gasset said all the NRP Phase I funds allocated for this project have been dispersed; neighborhood officials hope to have funds for next year through their NRP phase II planning.

Who’s fixing up 2002 Kingfield BFIP and Redevelopment Grants,

renovation plans and total estimated project cost:

1. Victor’s 1959 Caf, 3756 Grand Ave. S., $3,550 Improvements include: Window installment and replacement, plus window flowerboxes. Total estimated project cost: $7,100

2. Colonial Cleaners, 3701 Lyndale Ave. S., $12,500 Improvements include: New stucco wall to replace aluminum siding, columns next to the door, additional windows, store awning with signage and new gooseneck lights. Total estimated project cost: $49, 837

3. 37th Street Garage, 3701 Nicollet Ave., S., $25,000 Improvements include: Exterior paining, new signs, window enlargements, lighting and renovation of the business front to have three service garage doors, instead of one. Total estimated project cost: $31,629

4. Finer Meat Company, 3747 Nicollet Ave. S., $2,200 Improvements include: New business sign, awning with signage and window lettering. Total estimated project cost: $2,200

5. Theisen Vending Company, 3800 Nicollet Ave. S., $25,000 Improvements include: New awnings, renovated entrance and new door, sign, faux and real windows installed and wrought iron painting. Total estimated project cost: $45,000

6. Best Food Market, 3756 Nicollet Ave. S., $25,000 Improvements include: Taller windows for the business front, a new door, new awning with signage and new lighting fixtures. Total estimated project cost: $32,000

7. Dr. Sims Dental, 17 E. 38th St., $25,000 Improvements include: New windows and doors, planters and exterior painting. Total estimated project cost: $ 31,560

8. Marissa’s Bakery #2, 3733 Nicollet Ave. S., $1,633 Improvements include: A new awning. Total estimated project cost: $1,633

9. Shorty & Wags Original Chicken Wings and Ribs, 3753 Nicollet Ave. S., $25,000 Improvements include: Tuck pointing (replacing cement between brick) and exterior painting. Total estimated project cost: $65,000

10. Salvation Army Thrift Store, 3740 Nicollet Ave. S., $25,000 Improvements include: Exterior painting, new awning, new door and frame, lighting and window replacement. Total estimated project cost: $65,000

11. Up a Creek, 4251 Nicollet Ave. S., $1,325 Improvements include: Exterior painting and decorating. Total estimated project cost: $2,650

12. Fun Sisters, 4253 Nicollet Ave. S., $700 Improvements include: Exterior paining and window signs. Total estimated project cost: $ 1,400