Local Communities Can Apply for Funds to Improve Downtown Business Districts
Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation (RICC) announced they are accepting applications for the Main Street Rhode Island Streetscape Improvement Fund, which supports projects that improve the state's commercial districts.
The Main Street grants were created in the state fiscal year 2016 budget and make funding available for projects that improve streetscapes in commercial stretches, such as enhanced sidewalks, new street furniture, new wayfinding signage, upgraded building facades or improved street lighting. Projects can receive up to $300,000 in funding, and the state has again appropriated $1 million total for this program for the current fiscal year.
Applications for the next round of these grants are due April 12, 2017, and can be downloaded on the RICC's website (link below). Applicants must have matching funds of at least 30 percent of the total project cost, though matching funds can take multiple forms, including expenditure on direct construction costs or soft costs, real estate donated to the project, or federal or local grants.
"Businesses are taking a fresh look at our state because we're investing in ourselves with programs like this," Raimondo said. "Rhode Island's economy can't get back on track if we don't support our Main Streets, the foundations of our communities and a key source of economic growth. Last year's grants were in high demand, and I look forward to seeing how applicants this year are inspired to make our central business districts more vibrant, walkable, and welcoming."
"The business districts in our cities and towns are home to the small businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy," says Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor. "We aim to upgrade the sidewalks and facades that are the entryway to these businesses. This second round of grants will make it more attractive to do business in communities throughout the state, now and in the future."
In the inaugural round of applications last year, the RICC received 18 applications seeking over $3.4 million in funding. In March 2016, it awarded a total of $999,400, just below the $1 million appropriated for the program, to seven projects in six communities: Bristol, Central Falls, East Greenwich, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket.
These improvements have included signage directing traffic into downtown commercial districts, a public art installation to conceal overhead wires, sidewalk repair and street tree improvements to support accessibility and sustainability of infrastructure, and structural upgrades to bus stops and derelict storefronts. Lighting and landscaping have also been added in several communities.