New city initiative aims to restore vacant buildings
Toledo officials are hoping the Vibrancy Initiative will help local businesses restore the city’s vacant commercial buildings to house a wave of entrepreneurs who have been inspired to launch their own companies.
Announced Monday against the backdrop of the Broadway corridor in one of Toledo’s oldest neighborhoods, the pilot program was created to invest in the exterior and interior improvement of commercial buildings around the city that are no longer used, as well as to facilitate job creation and neighborhood safety.
The city has identified more than 20 vacant commercial spaces that qualify for the program, explained Sandy Spang, commissioner of business services with the city of Toledo’s Department of Economic Development.
“We’re seeing that so many people have decided to follow their dreams as entrepreneurs and we know that Toledo loves local businesses,” Ms. Spang said. “Often we are approached by local entrepreneurs that want a brick and mortar location but when they go to look at a location they find that the cost of renovation and bringing the building up to current code is prohibitive.”
Ms. Spang believes the Vibrancy program can help bring these buildings back to a useful purpose.
“The goal is to have safer, more attractive, and functional buildings that can house local businesses and create jobs,” she said.
For Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, this initiative fits under the umbrella of his recently pitched Toledo Recovery Plan that will be under consideration by city council this week. The Toledo Recovery Plan sprung from the $180 million that the city received as part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act. Within that plan, $500,000 is being allocated to this initiative.
“One of the reasons we wanted to start here on a pilot project is that, first of all, we believe in the approach and we think these corridors are important to creating a sense of place and economic identity,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said, “but also we felt that if we could show success on a pilot project here, it would create the momentum necessary for the larger $500,000 citywide approach to be embraced. It could help demonstrate to city council and others that this is an idea that can work citywide.”
While several areas could have served as host to the pilot program, the active Broadway Corridor Coalition made for an active partner to help the city with developing local buy-in, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.
“We are hoping the American Rescue Plan and initiatives like this can provide the incentive to perhaps create neighborhood-based, grassroots, activism where maybe it doesn’t exist right now,” he said. “In other words if there is a neighborhood that is not active but knows there is an opportunity to qualify for thousands or tens of thousands of assistance, that could be an event that catalyzes citizens to come together and organize. One way or another we think an initiative like this makes sense.”
The Vibrancy Initiative consists of a few different sub-programs including the Façade Improvement Grant, which is tailored toward helping improve the exterior façade of the buildings in question and provides a matching grant of $10,000 to $40,000, and the White Box Grant Program, which is tailored toward interior, first floor renovations and provides a matching grant of $25,000 to $75,000.
The third prong of the initiative is the Community Reinvestment Area program, which will provide property tax abatements for new construction or for the rehabilitation of residential, commercial, or industrial structures within certain pre-defined areas.
More information can be found at toledo.oh.gov/vibrancy.
Posted By: The Toledo Blade on October 18, 2021. For more information, please click here to read the source article.
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