Mayor Michael McCabe today announced he has directed the Office of Community Development to launch a Vacant Storefront Reactivation Program in an effort to lure new independent businesses to the City’s downtown core.
The program is offering to reimburse businesses that open in vacant downtown storefronts 50% of their rent in their first year of operation and 25% of their rent in the second year to incentivize entrepreneurs to locate in the City.
“Reinvigorating Downtown Westfield is an important part of the City’s economic development strategy,” Mayor McCabe stated. “Things in Downtown were challenging prior to the COVID pandemic, and social distancing requirements and mandatory closures only exacerbated those challenges,” he continued. “This program will demonstrate that the City is serious about filling these vacancies and partnering to enhance the downtown experience,” he added.
This program is targeted only to the Downtown neighborhood, generally described as Main Street from State Street to Park Square, Elm Street and its eastern and western arteries, Court Street from Park Square to Washington Street, Franklin Street from Elm Street to Charles Street, and the Depot Square area north of the Great River Bridge.
The Downtown Westfield VSAP provides commercial rent subsidies over a two‐year period. The first year subsidy is 50 percent of rent, up to $7.00 per square foot. The second year, the subsidy is for 25 percent of rent, up to $3.50 per square foot. The maximum total subsidy per business is $8,400 per business in the first year and $4,200 per business in the second year. This is set up as a reimbursement program where business owners will be required to document full payment of rent and be reimbursed in accordance with their contract on a monthly basis.
Program beneficiaries will be required to comply with regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development. HUD requires that all funds expended to benefit individuals from low-and-moderate income households. Local businesses can qualify in one of two ways- first, if the business has five or less employees and the business owner resides in a low-or-moderate income household; or second, if the business commits to retaining an employment position for an individual who lives in a low-or-moderate income household for a one-year period.
Today, the City has $120,000 available for the Vacant Storefront Activation Program.
Additional funding for to help existing businesses assistance is anticipated shortly as the City has programmed $500,000 in ARPA funds to aid agencies impacted by COVID. The Office of Community Development is developing an ARPA plan for these funds, which can also be used to provide assistance to local agencies providing public services, including food security programs, domestic violence prevention, and senior services, among other things.
For additional information and applications, please visit the Office of Community Development’s website at https://www.cityofwestfield.org/145/Community-Development.