Saturday
Mar302013

Downtown looking better thanks to grants

Saturday, March 30, 2013 10:43 PM EDT

 

By BRIAN JOHNSON
STAFF WRITER

NEW BRITAIN — James Calciano, owner of the city-based real estate business Courtside Commons, has completed renovations funded in part by a grant through the Downtown District’s Façade Improvement Program. He has been approved for a $2,500 to be put toward replacing the canopy of Courtside Commons.

Calciano met last week with Gerry Amodio, executive director of the New Britain Downtown District, to approve the grant.

The renovation was long overdue, he said.

“We had a 12-year-old cloth canopy,” Calciano said. “They typically last about 10 years, and we’d already patched it once.”

“We decided to replace the cloth canopy with a durable, long-lasting metal standing seam canopy,” he said. “The new canopy took about five to six days to set up and is now in place. It offers our 120-foot long building good protection from snow or rain, which is very important.”

“The program has existed for seven years,” said Amodio. “We’ve had seven people take advantage of the grant so far, one every year since the program got started. The former director saw it being done in other communities and saw it as a ‘no-brainer’ to adopt the program here in New Britain.”

“You have to present over $10,000 in renovation costs to get the maximum amount,” Calciano said. “You can get up to $2,500, essentially saving you 25 percent of expenses.”

Amodio further explained the application process.

“We have a form for property owners and tenants to fill out at the Downtown District if they want to apply,” he said. “We send out a broadcast email every year to let them know the grant exists. Once a tenant or owner has applied for the grant, the Downtown District reviews the application. The applicant then goes before a committee.”

“They have to prove to us that they’re spending the money, and we have to make sure the façade looks good,” said Amodio.

Calciano recommends that other property owners take advantage of the grant.

“The district has $10,000 set aside,” Calciano said. “That’s potential for a total of four grants to be put toward signage, facades and windows. It’s a very good opportunity for merchants and tenants in the area. You don’t have to be an owner to benefit. We want to get the word out to as many people as possible that there’s still money available.” 

Amodio has high hopes for the grant program going forward.

“It’s a great opportunity for people if they want to save some money,” said Amodio. “It also encourages people to take down old, ugly facades and replace them with a more modern style. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to set aside enough money for six or eight grants soon.”

“The Downtown District continues to be encouraged by property owners willing to put money into buildings,” Amodio said. “We’re very lucky to have an intact downtown to work with. Many towns have a downtown that’s decayed horribly. We have a nice base, and nice bones to build on.”

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext 216. or bjohnson@newbritainherald.com

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