By Kevin Wells, Economic Development Officer
Façade Improvement Grants (FIGs) are an indispensable tool provided by the Baltimore Development Corporation whereby grants are made available to Baltimore City businesses for the sake of beautifying or rehabilitating the public-facing exterior of their location. Since 2015, BDC has awarded about 60 grants, the majority falling between $3,000 and $7,500. More information can be found on the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) website.
There are three types of FIGs that BDC can award.
1. City-Wide Grant – “Dollar for dollar” match of up to $7,500 on a single commercial or industrial property
2. Main Street Grant – “Dollar for dollar” match of up to $10,000 for businesses in designated Baltimore Main Streets. Approval from the Baltimore City Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) and Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) may be required.
3. Industrial Grants – Awards of up to $25,000 for a single industrial property. Grants of up to $10,000 are provided with no match required, while anything beyond that requires a “dollar for dollar” match. Improvements made here are limited to businesses in industrially-zoned properties.
Almost any proposed improvements can be funded, contingent on project approval. Examples of façade improvements across Baltimore City include exterior painting, window treatments, siding, awnings, transoms, signage or the installation of cameras or light fixtures.
To be eligible for a FIG, the following criteria are necessary:
- The proposal must have approval from the owner of the building (if leased)
- The renovated exterior must be public-facing
- New construction, acquisition, interior work, residential properties and rear façades are ineligible
- The building must be occupied by a business
- The property must be in compliance with applicable zoning laws and urban renewal plans
- If located in a historic district, may require a notice to proceed from CHAP or MHT
To apply for a FIG, eligible businesses must submit a 1-page application form, as well as the following information:
- Two quotes for the proposed work
- $25 application fee
- A photo of the exterior in its current state
- A concept drawing of the exterior after project completion.
The application can be found here.
Once all of the application materials have been submitted to BDC, the relevant geographic team will review the proposed improvement. An applicant should expect to hear back within two weeks from the date of the internal review at BDC. Work completed before the approval of the FIG proposal will not be eligible for reimbursement.
Once approved, a business has 90 days to complete any improvements on the exterior of the property. A representative from the Baltimore Development Corporation will remain in touch throughout this period to monitor the completion status of the project and ensure that all deadlines are met. A one-time 30-day extension may be granted if necessary contingent on approval from BDC.
Why Apply for a FIG?
Façade improvement grants provide a number of benefits to business owners, one’s clientele and the surrounding neighborhood. A façade improvement is a quick way to increase foot traffic in an area, as well as attracting more clients to that particular business. In terms of competition, restoring the property of a façade could work to distinguish one’s business, while offering an opportunity to rebrand through amendments to signage. Research has also shown that increased foot traffic in an area can deter crime and make a community more attractive to both renters and visitors.
For additional information on Façade Improvement Grants, please contact Kristina Williams at KWilliams@baltimoredevelopment.com.