A facelift for local businesses

With new awnings and a fresh coat of paint, The Chair Salon shines brighter than ever at the corner of 36th Street and Bryant Avenue.

“There’s been a lot of feedback with a lot of people noticing how nice the building looks now,” Cronin said. “For a while, it was starting to look a little chipped up and run down.”

Cronin said the improvements might not have come if not for an encounter with Roger Worm of the Nicollet-East Harriet Business Association (NEHBA), who mentioned a new grant and loan program the city created for businesses.

Formed two years ago from an existing program, the Great Streets Neighborhood Business District Program was made on the premise that giving businesses grants or loans would produce a thriving city, said Rebecca Parrell, a project coordinator in Minneapolis’ business development department.

The Great Streets program is split into four types of grants and loans, Parrell said. The Chair Salon was the first Southwest business to receive its reimbursement money from the Great Streets’ Facade Improvement Matching Grant. In total, Cronin received a little more than $1,700, Parrell said. Building owner Dan Ziegler also received a reimbursement of nearly $1,900 for his improvements on the building.

This is how the facade grant works: The city gives $50,000 to a business association for two years and the association distributes the money to businesses that apply for the grant, said Matt Perry, chairman of NEHBA. Perry said businesses have to meet basic city requirements. For instance, he said improvements must be on the outside of the business and the business must fall into one of Minneapolis’ commercial business areas called nodes.

As of right now, Minneapolis has a total of 24 nodes. Of those, five are located in Southwest, but Perry said several more would be added in April as a result of the city’s sustainability plan.

Perry said once a business receives the grant it could receive a reimbursement of up to $5,000 for outside repairs. What the grant does is pay either half or a third of the total cost of the improvements, depending on where the business is located, Perry explained.

He added money is given out on a first-come, first-served basis and so far his association has already given out $15,000 in reimbursements.

To promote the facade program and Great Streets, Perry said NEHBA went to nearly 140 businesses. Perry said the program is a collaborative effort, however. NEHBA and neighborhood associations work together to have businesses follow community construction guidelines.

“The sidewalk is where public and private space meet,” Perry said. “When businesses do well, the neighborhood does well.”

NEHBA also works with 5th Precinct crime prevention specialists Tom Thompson when making facade improvements. Thompson said he advises businesses in making impropvements that decrease the chance of crime. For example, Thompson said installing the right kinds of outside lights could illuminate an area and deter crime.

NEHBA coordinator Joanna Hallstrom said the business association works with the Latino Economic Development Center to reach Spanish-speaking business owners as well.

Once an application goes through the process of approval from a neighborhood association, Tom Thompson and the city, the business is allowed to make the improvements. Afterward, the city verifies the improvements and sends the reimbursement check.

But the facade improvement program is only one aspect of Great Streets. Great Streets also has a Business Loan Program, which offers low- or no-interest loans to businesses, Minneapolis senior project coordinator in business development Kelly Hoffman said.

Hoffman also said Great Streets offers a program called Real Estate Development Gap Financing that also provides a loan for businesses. Hoffman said in this loan, a business generally receives an initial loan from a bank and combines it with its own money. If there is a gap between the money the business has and the price for business changes, Minneapolis will offer a low-interest loan, Hoffman added.

The last part of the Great Streets program is Business District Support Grants, Hoffman said. She explained these grants are given to business associations to develop ways to market and promote business areas.

One way Hoffman said this money is used is to plan special events that would attract people to a business area.

The Great Streets program is a tool for businesses to get cheap loans and grants from the city. Cronin, of The Chair Salon, said he knows how useful the program is.

“It was a really great deal and an easy process,” Cronin said. “It does absolutely nothing but make the neighborhood look better and appealing.”