The Helena Business Improvement District is taking applications from downtown area businesses for a Façade Improvement Grant.
The grant program is designed to promote the improvement of commercial and multi-use properties in the Business Improvement District by helping property owners upgrade, rehabilitate, and preserve the facades of eligible structures in Historic Downtown Helena.
Last year, there were seven applications for consideration.
Kohrs Block, The Painted Pot and Sage & Oats Trading Post received up to $5,000 in matching funds to makeover the front of their buildings.
Painted Pot Owner Brie Harrington said while the process is a little confusing, the BID made it easy. She got bids to include with her application paperwork and said that is the best suggestion she would make to anyone considering applying.
Her bids included a full exterior paint job and retractable awning.
“We kept it as close to possible to historic colors,” Harrington said. “The awning retracts, that’s good for winter with the snow.”
She said she researched downtown historical aesthetics with the Montana Historical Society and kept her business front within the guidelines.
The FIG program aims to make revitalization efforts affordable by providing matching grant funds up to $5,000. Harrington said she utilized the full amount.
Sage & Oats came in under their proposed budget as they made modifications that totaled about $7,500 during the planning process. Half of that was reimbursed through the grant program.
“The project morphed and we just stayed in contact,” said owner Michelle Robinson. “It was a learning process.”
Their improvements, Robinson said, had a ripple effect on the block.
“Now, our area is very inviting,” she said.
Not all the applications last year met the requirements, said Micky Zurcher, executive director for the Helena Business Improvement District.
In order to apply, businesses must reside within the improvement district. To be considered, all of the details have to be included.
Zurcher advises businesses to fill out the applications and not to hesitate to call her with questions.
The façade improvement project is a component of the 2016 master city plan. Zurcher said with every year, she hopes to improve the process and increase the number of businesses that get assistance.
“It’s important to recognize what can come from this,” she said.
FIG grants are provided to owners in recognition of the positive impacts that individual building improvements can have on overall appearance, quality, growth, and vitality of the downtown.