In cities throughout Canada and the USA, there is a growing trend of providing grant money to businesses to fund building renovations, building repairs, improving and renovating commercial façades and storefronts. These renovation projects create many benefits to the business undertaking the renovation work, including giving the business a more professional appearance, which attracts more customers. It also shows that the business cares about their property, attracting more businesses to the area, improving the neighbourhood streetscape, and providing a more welcoming environment to work, shop and live.
Building renovations and storefront improvement funding is a redirection of municipal taxes paid by property owners and collected by the city. These funding programs stimulate the entire city’s economy as it creates employment for local contractors and tradespeople and increased purchases from local contractor suppliers and hardware stores, all at the same time making our cities cleaner and more desirable places to live in and visit.
What types of repairs are eligible for funding?
The types of expenses covered under building renovations and storefront improvement differ from city to city. In general the following types of expenses are covered under the program:
Brick and masonry repair and cleaning
New signs and lighting
Replacement of doors and windows
Repair and replacement of cornices, parapets and other architectural features
Installation, repair or replacement of awnings and canopies
Redesign of storefront
Installation of wheelchair accessibility ramps
Mechanical/heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (“HVAC”)
How does a business qualify for funding and who can apply for funding?
In order to qualify for building renovations and storefront improvement funding you must:
be the property owner or a tenant of the property with permission of the property owner to have the renovation work completed
be up to date with municipal tax payments
not have started your improvement project before the program application is approved
Once the property has received the maximum funding amount, they must wait for at least three years to reapply for any additional funding.
How is the funding provided?
Building renovations and storefront improvement funding is given as a non-repayable grant. Funding does however vary per city and may cover anywhere from 50% to 100% of the renovation expenses. Once your application is approved, your business will need to complete and pay for the renovation work. Proof of payment and contractor and material invoices are then submitted the city. Once received, the city will issue the grant money to the business.
How do I get more information on commercial and storefront improvement
If you are interested in funding, contact your local city counsellor or directly call the city your business is located in and let them know you are interested in more information. They will be able to assist you with program information, applications and deadlines for application submission.
What if we have already done our renovations, do we still qualify for funding?
In most cities you will need to get approval for the renovation project before you start the work. If you start the work before you receive notice of funding approval, your business is no longer eligible for funding. Also, if you have already completed your renovation work and want to apply retroactively for funding, you will not be able to receive funding. Building renovations and storefront improvement funding applies to new renovation projects.
When should I contact the city about funding?
If you are interested in building renovations and storefront improvement funding you should contact the city your business resides in immediately. Funding is usually made available at the start of the government’s fiscal year which is April 1st in Canada and October 1st in the USA.
There is a limited amount of funding available every year, and once the funding is allocated for the fiscal year, you must wait for the following year to apply. Therefore it is important to apply as soon as possible to qualify for funding.