NORTH PERTH – Council approved implementing a Façade Improvement Program (FIP) and Downtown Commercial Design Guidelines (DCDG) to support local business owners in the downtowns of Listowel, Atwood and Monkton, on May 10.
The budget for the program is $75,000 for 2021. Funding for the program in the future will be considered during budget processes.
On April 19, North Perth staff made two presentations that described the research and engagement process for both the FIP and DCDG, and council members had an opportunity to ask questions plus supply feedback and questions by email. Additional feedback was sought from the building department, public works, and bylaw enforcement staff.
A three-member staff-led committee will evaluate all FIP projects. The committee will accept applications over two different intake periods each year. These intake periods ensure that program funding is distributed amongst North Perth’s downtown cores effectively. The first intake will open up to receive applications on Feb. 1 of each year.
During the first intake, the division of the funding will be 60 per cent for Listowel, 20 per cent for Atwood and 20 per cent for Monkton.
This breakdown of funding will only apply to the first intake period. The second intake will open to receive applications beginning June 1. During the second intake, funding will be available for all businesses across the downtown communities and will be awarded as applications are received. For 2021, the first intake will be bypassed, meaning on June 1 funding will be available to business owners in downtown Listowel, Atwood, and Monkton.
Staff recommended only grants be provided for the FIP with no loan procedures. Best practice research indicated that the loan procedures were very costly and troublesome to the municipality and business owners. Further, research shows that grants can generate roughly a three-to-one return on investment for the community paying local contractors, suppliers, and labourers. As such, the grant process effectively creates an engaging commercial space for the community and stimulates the local economy.
At this time, FIP grants are only available to downtown businesses in Listowel, Atwood, and Monkton. As the program develops, there is an opportunity for council to consider how it may expand the boundaries to include other commercial areas within North Perth.
The grants will cover 50 per cent of total project costs up to $7,500.
Eligible projects include redesigning the storefront, restoring the original façade appearance, repainting or cleaning the façade, replacing or repairing windows and doors, replacing or repairing canopies and awnings, modifying entranceways including improving accessibility, replacing, installing or repairing signage, installing street murals or public art along the building’s façade and installing flower boxes.
Coun. Allan Rothwell said he was concerned that the program was starting with intake No. 2, which would mean there was no percentage guaranteed to Atwood and Monkton businesses in 2021.
“I believe the percentages that were laid out in the program document should be reflective of what would be our first intake so that there be an equal opportunity just as there is at the start of the year for any Listowel, Atwood or Monkton property owners,” he said. “As opposed to a first-come, first-serve on the first-ever time we are dealing with this. I think the rationale for the percentages is that there would be a spread… in terms of getting something happening in not just Listowel but also Atwood and Monkton, so I am concerned we don’t have a percentage in the first-ever intake.”
“I think the best strategy for this plan is to be both proactive and reactive so we are putting a lot of effort into engaging with those business owners in both Monkton and Atwood,” said Community Improvement Project Planner Lee Barich. “So we are in contact with them to make sure they are aware of the program so that they do have the same opportunity to apply as those in Listowel. However, we feel at this time it’s best to ensure the program gets rolling as opposed to putting those restrictions starting this summer.”
Council voted unanimously in favour of rolling out the program starting with a June intake with no percentage restrictions.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner