Reaction positive to City of Courtenay incentive for downtown businesses to improve storefronts

Comox Valley residents could soon see some spiffed-up storefronts in downtown Courtenay.

MARK AND DANIELLE Duncan have expressed interest in a new City of Courtenay program that encourages downtown business owners to improve their storefronts.

Comox Valley residents could soon see some spiffed-up storefronts in downtown Courtenay.

The Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association (DCBIA) recently announced its Façade Improvement Program, which gives downtown business owners and building owners a chance to receive grants for up to half of their storefront improvement costs to a maximum of $5,000.

DCBIA executive director Kim Stubblefield notes members haven’t had long to ponder the incentive, as it was announced only last month, but already she’s had a number of inquiries.

“The people who have inquired have been really excited about it, the idea that it could really make a difference between them being able to upgrade their façades or not,” she says.

The money will come from DCBIA members themselves via a special property tax levy applied to properties in the downtown core area, as it has been for years to generate funding for the DCBIA budget.

According to DCBIA vice-president Deana Simkin, $10,000 has been set aside for the grants in the 2013 DCBIA budget.

Danielle Duncan, who owns the Union Street Grill & Grotto with her husband Mark, is one of the people who inquired about the program so far.

“Mark and I are looking at putting in an application for the grant in order to do some needed maintenance to the front of our building,” said Danielle, noting they need to do some repainting and replace some siding on the front of their building. “This incentive has made us think about spending more and making a commitment to getting the project done this year.

“We are now considering using more expensive materials, that would last longer, because of the incentive.”

She added they are also thinking about changes to their signage and buying some custom flags to hang outside the restaurant.

Adding to the incentive, the City of Courtenay will likely reduce development permit fees for renovations in the downtown core from $1,000 to $100. Councillors praised the recommendation and unanimously gave the amended bylaw first, second and third reading. The bylaw is expected to come back for final reading in early April.

Coun. Manno Theos noted façade upgrades, like the one at Glacier View Plaza on Cliffe Avenue, can make a big difference.

“These facelifts bring these buildings back to life and hopefully it’ll do the same for many of the buildings in the downtown area,” said Theos, adding the combined incentives could really help. “Along with the fees being reduced, the incentive of the up to $5,000 to make the overall improvements on the façades is really going to potentially make a difference if people take advantage of that.”

Simkin was at the council meeting and noted the reduction in development permit fees to the City would make a big difference for those wanting to do upgrades downtown.

“I think it’s absolutely amazing that we can work together and hopefully get some things done, get some beautification done in the downtown area,” she said. “I think the City has done a wonderful thing here to help with this.”

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