Greenwood is setting aside $500,000 to help pay for new landscaping and lighting, public art and building improvements along a main route through the city.
If the first year of the matching grant program goes well, more money could be set aside in future years.
The money would be given out by the city redevelopment commission as matching grants to business owners, which could be used to fix up building façades, add new signs, landscaping, lighting or fencing or install public art. And it would only go to properties in a specific corridor the city identified: along Main Street, between U.S. 31 and Graham Road, and along Madison Avenue, between Smith Valley and Fry roads.
The project is one the redevelopment commission and city officials have been discussing for months, especially since the city started its project to improve the façades of downtown business buildings, said Brent Tilson, president of the redevelopment commission.
This project expands those improvements outside of just the downtown, and into key corridors around the city, which the city has also been studying ways to improve, he said.
“Once the façade project is done, the downtown is going to look great, and some other areas may not have the same look and feel,” Tilson said.
“It’s important for us to not just have a pocket in downtown that is cleaned up and polished up.”
City officials looked at other communities and projects going on around the country, and some of the communities with the most success had revitalization programs, including Baltimore and Fort Wayne. The city has to follow certain requirements in how it can spend its tax-increment financing, or TIF, district dollars, and a matching grant program was one of the options the city considered, Tilson said.
“$500,000 is a lot of money, but when you look at the expanse of the area we have identified, there are a lot of businesses along there,” he said.
“You have to use all the tools that you have available, we view this as another mechanism to spark development.”
The overall goal is to encourage revitalization, Tilson said.
The downtown façade program is a start, but officials want to find other ways to keep the momentum going, he said. The grants give business owners an opportunity to do projects they may have been considering, but couldn’t afford, he said.
“It’s the momentum that we as a community have, continuing on the other investments,” Tilson said.
The redevelopment commission gave initial approval to setting the money aside for the grant program, but still has other details to solidify, including requirements to be eligible for the grants, the maximum amount per project and the percentage property owners would need to contribute, he said.
They also want to create a scoring system for projects, he said. Projects would need to be located in prominent, high-traffic areas, be a part of larger, overall improvement projects and lead to job creation or job retention. The projects could not include new construction or interior or roofing projects, according to the presentation to the redevelopment commission.
After the first year, the city can see what was learned and what worked, and how and whether to continue the program, Tilson said.