Grants attract downtown improvements
For the first time, five downtown Shawnee businesses are getting help from the city to make exterior improvements to their buildings.
Last week, the Shawnee Downtown Partnership and the city announced the recipients of this year's Special Downtown Improvement Grants, which have been offered for the past three years. But with the approval of the City Council, five rather than three $5,000 grants have been offered this year.
One surprise was one of this year's grants was awarded to a business, Window Flair Drapery, that is relocating from Merriam to Shawnee at 11805 W. 62nd Pl. David Morris, chairman of the downtown partnership, said he thinks that a new business learning about the grants is a good sign that the promotion of the grants has been successful.
One improvement not well-represented in the grants, however, are improvements to parking lots and landscaping. These types of improvements were allowed when the Shawnee City Council approved the partnership's recommendation last year to increase the number of yearly grants from three to five.
At the time the partnership stated that these improvements should be encouraged in the downtown area, though only O.K. Garage intends to use its grant for its parking lot and landscaping, in addition to removal of an underground gas storage tank.
"We've tried to make sure it's out there," Morris said. "I think with all of it, it's going to take a little bit of time; people have to plan for things."
The $5,000 grants are awarded to those businesses that spend $10,000 or more to improve the exteriors of their businesses. An unlimited number of $2,000 grants also are available for businesses that make improvements of at least $5,000.
Both downtown businesses and residents can take advantage of a loan incentive program, which is offered through several Shawnee banks to help lower the interest rate charged on loans for improvements. Both can also take part in the improvement incentive program, which offers a rebate of 90 percent of the portion of Ad Valorem taxes incurred due to an increase of at least $5,00 in appraised value due to an improvement.
This year's grants show the spectrum of revitalization in downtown, with three used for older business, one for a new business and one for a completely new building.
"It just takes time, and we're thrilled with the amount of grants people are using right now," Morris said. "It's getting some more improvements downtown."