The city of Soldotna is accepting applications for the Storefront Improvement Program, which awards grants to local businesses seeking to revitalize their storefront.
Since 2012, the city has been using the grant program to meet their goals of improving the aesthetics of Soldotna’s downtown district, John Czarnezki, the city’s director of economic development and planning, said.
Another goal of the program is to increase foot traffic into local businesses. Czarnezki said the improvements need to be transformative and in line with the city’s comprehensive plan.
“We don’t want to just pay for a new paint job or general maintenance,” he said. “We encourage a more transformative effect.”
So far, the city has funded 15 projects, totaling around $84,000 in grants. Czarnezki said the Soldotna City Council traditionally allocates $15,000 for storefront improvement grants, or enough money to fund two projects.
Czarnezki said the city is trying something new this year with the program. To encourage competitiveness, applications for storefront improvement projects have a due date. In prior years, the program worked on an open enrollment basis.
Genevieve Smithwick-Aley has received the grant twice for projects on her buildings on Kobuk Street, which include businesses Kaladi Brothers Coffee, Steamer Trunk Fashion Boutique and Shops Around the Corner, home to businesses Orange Poppy, Kelsi’s Kloset and Northern Roots Hair Salon.
“It definitely improved my business, in sprucing up my storefront,” she said.
She said any businesses interested in making improvements to their storefront should apply first, since owners won’t be reimbursed for updates made before the project is approved.
The grant requires at least a 50% percent match in funding from the building owner, with the city helping with up to $7,500 of the cost. The program covers exterior business remodels in the city’s commercial districts.
When the program first started, the city only offered $5,000, and in 2014, the grants were raised to $7,500. Czarnezki said the city came to recognize that storefront rehabilitation is expensive.
“$5,000 doesn’t necessarily influence whether [storefront improvement] is going to happen,” he said.
Interested business owners can apply at www.soldotna.org/storefront. Applications are due June 14.