Grants available for Main Street businesses

The Livingston County Development Corporation is awarding its second round of grants to downtown businesses in Geneseo, Dansville, Lima, Mount Morris and Nunda. The grants are available for sign and façade improvements.

Designated downtown businesses in these five towns may apply for a maximum $5,000 grant, which is to be matched by the business or building owner. The Livingston County Development Corporation is awarding a total of $60,000 across the five towns.

According to Louise Wadsworth, downtown coordinator for Livingston County, the purpose of the grants is to "inspire people to fix up their buildings." She and the rest of the grant committee are specifically encouraging new signage, painting and awning repair to business exteriors.

The Livingston County Development Corporation recently decided to reinstate perpendicular signs, which were previously outlawed.

"Now we realize they are actually beneficial to downtown because they're pedestrian-friendly," Wadsworth said. "People see them when they're walking down the street, and [they] create character downtown."

In addition to advocating perpendicular signage, Wadsworth stressed the aesthetic and public importance of awnings.

"If you look at any old pictures of main streets, they have lots of awnings," she said. "They bring the store front out to the street a little more. [They] make people feel safe."

The grants will also cover any desired remodeling to second-floor levels of businesses, including window replacement or repair.

While previous grants have generally been awarded to a business owner or a building owner, Wadsworth suggested that pairing up would greatly benefit the business. She used an example of the business owner paying for the sign and the building owner paying for the awning, stating, "It would really reflect well on the business."

In order for a business or building owner to apply, they must fill out an application packet and be willing to match the grant offer amount. Wadsworth explained that the committee will review all applications and prioritize businesses based on "where [the grant] would make the biggest difference."  She said that there would be no shortage of applications, describing the process as "competitive."

The Livingston County Government Center in Geneseo is holding two informational meetings on Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 at which businesses can receive application materials. The applications are due Jan. 31, and the awards will be distributed at the time of the spring construction season in March.

Wadsworth discussed the possibility of Geneseo receiving a New York Main Street grant, which would award an additional several hundred thousand dollars to businesses for interior repair, but said that the Livingston County grants are "a good first step."

"When downtown looks good, everybody feels better about their town," she said. "They want to be there [to] support those businesses. It helps the economic environment."

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