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The original item was published from 5/2/2023 8:59:00 AM to 8/3/2023 12:00:03 AM.

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Posted on: May 2, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Support, incentives open the door for new downtown businesses

Kate Garcia

Business is growing downtown, bringing with it an improved experience for residents and visitors.

There was a time when walking through downtown meant passing by empty storefronts; now, you can park at DeLeon Plaza and walk past a nearly continuous string of small retailers—perhaps while enjoying an event like the Art and Music Walk—before stopping near City Hall to grab a bite to eat.

Bringing more businesses downtown is a win for our residents and for existing businesses that benefit from the synergy, but opening a business downtown comes with its own unique challenges—like the cost of renovating historic buildings, or the potential shortage of nearby parking.

The good news is that many funding programs exist to help residents with their downtown dreams. One of the roles of the Victoria Main Street Program is to help prospective business owners navigate these programs, which can be confusing at first but can be a big help in meeting the challenges of downtown development.

One new program that has attracted a lot of interest is the Building Improvement Grant (BIG) Program, which we created last year to help occupants of historic properties to fund major interior improvements related to structure and code compliance. We’ve provided five projects with matching grants, using our whole funding allocation for the first year. Applications will open again in October.

We’ve also seen increased interest in our Façade Grant Program, also reserved for historic properties, which focuses on exterior work. We’ve provided matching grants to nine projects this year, and funding is still available; visit www.victoriatx.gov/mainstreet for more information.

Also last year, the City became an official participant in the Texas Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program, which uses a collateral system to help developers pursue private loans for energy/water efficiency projects. This program isn’t specific to downtown or historic structures, but older buildings with inefficient designs are good candidates.

There are also state and national incentives set aside for historic properties. For example, the state and federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit Programs offer tax credits for the renovation of buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The existence of the Victoria Main Street Program helps make residents’ state and federal applications more competitive by demonstrating that the proposed development is taking place in an area with a committed downtown program. The downtown master plan can also help to boost an application; if a project lines up with what the community wants to see, it’s more likely to get funded. The City is currently pursuing a Cultural District designation for downtown, which will open up new grant opportunities for properties in the designated area.

A thriving downtown is an important community resource, and we’re looking forward to working with our business owners and local partners to help downtown grow even further. For more information about how the Victoria Main Street Program supports downtown, visit www.victoriatx.gov/mainstreet

Kate Garcia is the Main Street Program manager for the City of Victoria.

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