Tyler Street businesses seeking a storefront makeover could get up to $15,000

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PITTSFIELD — Tyler Street businesses needing a facelift can now access $65,000 in state and local funds to help pay for the facade work.

The Tyler Street District Storefront Improvement Program is accepting applications from existing or vacant commercial/mixed use property owners who, depending on the project, could receive up to $15,000, according to city planners.

The program centers on exterior work, which could include window and door replacement, exterior storefront lighting, interior lights for the facade or windows, painting, awnings and signs.

City Planner C. J. Hoss says the four to five applicants chosen to participate in the pilot program will be required to match the funding amount received by 10 percent.

"Whatever dollar amount, we will place a lien on the building for the amount and after two years, the money becomes a grant with the money free and clear to the applicant," Hoss said. Applications will be continuously reviewed until the winning selections are announced.

The city hopes vacant storefront owners apply, but the program isn't targeting specific properties. Single and multifamily residences and religious organizations aren't eligible.

The storefront improvements is the latest effort to upgrade the Tyler Street area through the Transformative Development Initiative (TDI), a city and state collaborative to revitalize the neighborhood.

"The program is about improving the look of the building as well as address safety concerns," said Amewusika "Sika' Sedzro, a TDI fellow with MassDevelopment. She noted up to four business have already expressed interest in seeking the facade funding.

Mass Development, the state economic development and finance agency, is working closely with the Tyler Street Business Group to enact the program and handle the selection process.

This spring, MassDevelopment awarded $30,000 for the storefront initiative with the Pittsfield City Council providing $35,000 in matching funds.

Applicants needing guidance regarding storefront program can get free advice from the Berkshire Regional Office of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network at 75 North St. or call 413-499-0933.

Tyler Street Business Group President Diane Marcella says storefront upgrades are another step toward the potential economic growth of the Tyler Street area.

She said the recent Pittsfield Better Block event was an example of what can be done with empty storefronts and vacant lots on Tyler between Smith and Courtland streets.

"We got a lot of people talking about Tyler Street and saying we need to do these type of activities more often," she said.

In recent years a number of new businesses have occupied vacant storefronts, capitalizing on the Tyler Street/Morningside revitalization that hopes to go beyond just serving the needs of area residents.

"How can we change the streetscape to slow people down and make the businesses more welcoming to those driving by," Sedzro said.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233


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