Thursday, December 1, 2022

WDI awards 5 downtown businesses grants for storefront improvements

Brooklyn Arts Center’s Cat’s Cottage bridal suite is the recipient of WDI’s $2,500 Facade Improvement Grant. (Port City Daily/Courtesy photos, WDI)

WILMINGTON — Some areas of downtown Wilmington are getting a facelift. A Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI) grant program is helping storefronts offset the costs of improvements in the central business district of downtown Wilmington.

The Facade Improvement Grant (FIG) Program has awarded five $2,500 grants. Funded by the Municipal Service District, $15,000 was allocated this fiscal year for the program, according to a press release from WDI.

Grants help entrepreneurs keep the aesthetics of their property updated. The money can be used for various storefront renovations, such as removing stucco or non-historic siding, replacing cornices and windows, repairing brick and masonry work, adding structural support, as well as painting, restoring original features, or installing awnings and signs.

The program started in 2017 and has funded façade upkeep of businesses such as Hell’s Kitchen and Floriana. No applications were received in 2020, according to WDI spokesperson Christina Haley.

“Many area businesses concentrated on surviving during the pandemic,” she said, “but we had money for the grant program.”

Those funds get shifted into other areas if they aren’t used, Haley added. However, in 2021 she explained FIG has gained popularity again.

Approved by the WDI Executive Committee, Brooklyn Arts Center, Taco Baby, Front Street Brewery, Better Basket, and SVN Efird Commercial Real Estate received $2,500. Haley said she is speaking with two other businesses currently as well.

“We are trying to move around funds to provide more grants,” she indicated, “but it has to go before a committee for approval.”

The grants cover half the total cost of the business’ storefront renovation project. Awards are given up to $2,500, unless the business is located on a corner or at through properties — such as facing two streets or situated at a street and alleyway. Then the maximum doubles to $5,000.

If funds are exhausted in 2021 for the grants, applications will still be accepted and considered for the next fiscal year, as long as MSD continues to fund the program.

“This recent round of grant approvals demonstrates the effectiveness of the FIG Program to help downtown businesses and property owners make needed repairs and upgrades to their storefronts, while also working to beautify the overall look and feel of downtown Wilmington,” Holly Childs, WDI president and CEO, said in the release.

Below lists how recipients of the grants are utilizing the funds. Other downtown businesses interested in learning more about the FIG program can contact office@wilmingtondowntown.com or call 910-998-7744.

Brooklyn Arts Center’s Ms. Cat’s Cottage

516 N. Fourth St.
Funds helped the completion of Cat’s Cottage, which is a 1931 home located directly behind the Brooklyn Arts Center, renovated into a bridal suite. Brooklyn Arts Center purchased the property and began renovating it, replacing the front porch, installing new metal roof awning, as well as windows, and repairing wood siding and trim. The interior of the home, as well as the back porch, and surrounding property also was upfitted.

Taco Baby

125 Grace St.
Nathan Verway painted a new mural on the front of Taco Baby, located on Grace Street. The WDI grant helped pay for the removal of the former sign, as well as caulking and painting the storefront ahead of the mural installation.

Front Street Brewery

9 Front St.
The front of Wilmington’s longest-standing brewery sustained damages from Hurricane Florence, so the grant will help amend those problem areas. There will be stucco and cornice repair, plus painting and staining of the restaurant-front. Also slated: “a major overhaul of the brewery interior,” WDI noted in a release.

Better Basket

143 N. Front St.
Owners of the building made restorations to the metal tiles and awning, as well as painted and sealed the storefront. Gutter repairs and wood replacement was conducted, specifically with old reclaimed wood to keep within the historic cityscape of Wilmington.

SVN Efird Commercial Real Estate

6 Market St.
Aside from caulking and painting the front of the business, the owners also will be replacing windows, wood, and molding


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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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