Grant available to update entrances

Published 10:28 am Thursday, October 18, 2012

Downtown businesses on Broadway affected by the upcoming streetscape project will have the opportunity to receive a $2,500 matching grant to spruce up or add a back entrance to their buildings.

When the street project is under way, front-door access to the businesses may be interrupted, and customers will only be able to use back doors to get into the stores.

Community Development Director Bob Graham said the Albert Lea City Council approved the grant in its Sept. 24 meeting. It will be a temporary part of the Broadway Ridge Renewal Grant Program, which gives larger grants to help downtown businesses revamp the front facades of their buildings.

Email newsletter signup

“This is a great first step,” said Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr. “It will get people thinking about what to do now. It shows the city wants to help, and we just have to figure out what’s the best way to help.”

People can apply for the grant through April 30, and the work must be completed by June 30. Grants less than $2,500 are also available if a business wants to have a smaller project.

Business owners and renters asked whether the money could be used for painting the back facade, purchasing an awning for the back door or building structures to camouflage the Dumpsters in the alleys, among other ideas.

“How do we make it friendly enough so they don’t feel like they’re going in the wrong entrance?” said Prairie Wind Coffee owner Kirk Foley. “My main concern is the alleys.”

Plymouth Shoe Store owner Linda Knudsen talked about the importance of flowerpots or an occasional bench to spruce up the entry.

Kehr said signage will be another major part in making sure customers know how to get into the businesses.

American Legion Commander Roger Bakken asked if there was any history on how many businesses are lost during a similar project. Those numbers were not available.

The informal meeting took place at Prairie Wind Coffee. It was the first of a series the city plans to have with downtown business owners when the project is completed.

For more information on the grant, contact Graham at 377-4326. Applications will be reviewed by the Heritage Preservation Commission.