Greater Reading Chamber expands façade grant program

Through the Berks Alliance, the chamber is providing matching grants to businesses in parts of downtown Reading that can be used toward improvements to a building’s external appearance, lighting and storefront security. The 1:1 matching grants are for up to $10,000 and must be for projects costing at least $1,000 dollars.

Low interest loans are also available to approved businesses.

In its first year of the two-year funding commitment for the program, the Berks Alliance supported façade improvements along the Penn Street Corridor in Reading. It said that six property owners took advantage of nearly $50,000 in matching grants, including Liberty Environmental, which used funds for façade improvements at the former Stichter Hardware Building on Penn Street.

All totaled, the Alliance said the program facilitated around $170,000 in improvement work in the targeted area.

“The downtown area has a lot of older properties and it is a historical area,” said Aaron Gratz, executive director of downtown revitalization for the chamber. “We’re putting a special focus on the physical environment along Penn Avenue … visible improvements help to ensure that we are providing a vibrant, clean, safe experience in the downtown.”

This year, the GRCA and Berks Alliance have also partnered with Sherwin Williams paint store to provide additional support to approved applicants in the form of free and reduced paint.

This year the grant program is also physically expanding and will include Reading’s 18th Ward through the 18th Ward Wonder Association, which is working to implement its own community development plan for Lancaster Avenue area businesses.

Façade improvement grants of up to $10,000 are now being made available to improvement projects in the 400, 500, 600 blocks and consecutively in the 700 to the railroad bridge along Lancaster Avenue. Business signage and lighting projects grants of up to $5,000 are also available.

Each grant program has $50,000 in 1:1 matching grants to distribute.

Applications are being accepted on a competitive, rolling basis through Aug. 30, 2019.

For further information regarding the downtown program, contact Aaron Gantz, executive director of Downtown Revitalization, at agantz@greaterreading.org. For the 18th Ward program, contact Sam Loth, samloth@comcast.net.

Stacy Wescoe
Writer and online editor Stacy Wescoe has her finger on the pulse of the business community in the Greater Lehigh Valley and keeps you up-to-date with technology and trends, plus what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler — and on social media. She can be reached at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4104. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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