Santa Rosa to distribute over $500,000 to small businesses for exterior facade improvements

The city is distributing over $500,000 to local small businesses for exterior facade improvement.|

Editor’s note: Sonoma Media Investments, the company that owns The Press Democrat, is set to receive $20,800 in funding from this program.

The city of Santa Rosa is distributing over $500,000 in grants to help fund projects to make exterior facade improvements to small business’ buildings.

Some businesses received as much as $40,000 to help fund these projects, which could be anything from paint jobs and new signage to landscaping and lighting.

Former city of Santa Rosa arts and culture manager Tara Thompson said last year that the grant programs are an opportunity to “support vibrant commercial areas, aesthetic improvements and economic viability for small businesses.”

“We set out with a primary goal to encourage economic development and destination awareness in historically underinvested areas,” she told The Press Democrat last July. “By enhancing the exterior appearance of those spaces, you are indicating that this is a place you want to go to and that it increases the commercial viability of those storefronts and businesses.”

The exterior facade grant is part of the Small Business Support Program put together by the city of Santa Rosa, using money from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

These grants were open for small businesses that met the following criteria:

  • Employed fewer than 500 people
  • Experienced decreased revenue or gross receipts during the pandemic
  • Experienced financial insecurity due to the pandemic
  • Faced increased costs
  • Were unable to handle financial hardship due to the pandemic
  • Challenged with covering payroll, rent or mortgage and other operating costs during the pandemic

Small businesses who were tenants in a building or site were also required to have owner approval as well.

The project was aimed at businesses located in the Roseland commercial areas, along Santa Rosa Avenue’s commercial corridor, Petaluma Hill Road’s commercial corridor and downtown.

Applications with a general outline of the potential facade project were to be accepted in two phases with the applications scored as they were received and funds tentatively allocated as each project review was completed.

However, city of Santa Rosa director of planning and economic development department Gabe Osburn said funds from the American Rescue Plan Act were fully allocated during the first phase of requests and a second phase of requests is not anticipated at this time.

Recipients will receive 20% of the grant upfront to help with initial permitting and construction startup costs.

The rest of the funding will be delivered at the completion of the project when the city can verify the money was spent specifically on the projects outlined by each recipient.

Awards were allocated based on project costs. Projects with budgets of $20,000 or less were eligible for up to 100% of requested funding, budgets between $21,000 and $75,000 were eligible for up to 70% of requested funding and budgets over $75,000 were eligible for up to 50% of the request with a cap of $40,000.

Three businesses and organizations received the highest amount of funding, $40,000, one of them being the Arlene Francis Center in downtown Santa Rosa.

The Foundation purchased the building 25 years ago and has wanted to perform maintenance and repairs on the building ever since, from updating exterior lighting to new paint and fixing broken windows.

But because the foundation doesn’t have any endowment, it relies on gifts and grants to fund operations.

Director of the center, Martin Hamilton, said the center had to defer those projects because of funding and looks forward to being able to put these renovations in motion. He said the center plans to use the money to fix outside lighting, purchase more signage and other exterior aesthetic improvements.

“It’s great because I’ve been wanting to do (these improvements) and now I have the money,” Hamilton said. “The city doesn’t always have money for the arts so it’s great that we get this money.”

Brauley McNulty, owner of Daredevils & Queens, applied for the grant to fund maintenance for the building housing her hair salon. She plans on working with her landlord to get the building painted and to upgrade lighting to improve security.

“The buildings in Railroad Square are historic and beautiful and need to be maintained on a regular basis,” she said. “(These grants) have been a great opportunity to have this facade improvement because then everybody gets an update at the same time.”

You can reach Staff Writer Sara Edwards at 707-521-5487 or sara.edwards@pressdemocrat. com. On Twitter @sedwards380.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:
  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.