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Matching grant program extends to improve more South Bend corridors

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- 

A recently launched matching grant program by South Bend is helping more local businesses get a face lift.

“This was a response to the need to build business and enhance, attract business to some of the city’s major corridors,” said Chris Dressel, planner with South Bend’s Department of Community Investment."I think we have confidence that there's probably a pent-up demand for this kind of funding and there will be some good projects that will come out of it."

The matching grant is an extension of a program done in the past on Western Avenue and Lincolnway West. Dressel says because of success, they decided to extend to other business corridors.

Now, businesses along Mishawaka Avenue from Eddy Street to Logan Street, and on Miami Street from Lincolnway East to Altgeld Street have the chance to apply for the program.

It offers businesses the chance to make improvements to their properties through façade enhancements while simultaneously creating an overall improved look of the corridor.

The city will match business owners up to $25,000 for a project. But the business owner has to invest a minimum of $1,000 for a project to qualify, and that’s something one small business owner says doesn’t help him.

"It's kind of sad that there's a minimum of what there is to actually help your business,” said Melvin Blackely Jr., a co-owner of Phia Collection on Mishawaka Avenue.

He hoped to use the grant to help him buy a sign to put on the outside of his new business, but the sign only cost around $700.

“A small business getting started I think they would want to try to help you. Especially inside of South Bend limits, you're trying to bring business to the city,” he said. "It just seems like we don't get the assistance that we need."

Dressel says he encourages business owners to talk to the program leaders about ways to most efficiently hit the minimum requirement.

"We wanted to establish at least some minimum so we can make an impact visually. We want to encourage a project that has more of a broader scope attached to it," said Dressel.

There is currently $200,000 to go towards the program. Dressel says they will help as many businesses as possible. He hopes the project will also create a better environment for pedestrians. 

"There's been a history of city investment that's gone on in these corridors in the past. This is meant to compliment that work by looking at the individual properties and bringing a sort of attraction to them that matches the past walkability efforts and the past improvement efforts that have gone on," he said.

He says there have been twelve businesses go through the pre-application process so far. The program allows the city to help businesses brainstorm how to make the project most efficient.

Those interested in learning more can contact Jacob Alexander with the Department of Community Investment at 574-235-9278 or at jalexand@southbendin.gov. 

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