Winter Park’s latest effort to revitalize West Fairbanks Avenue may be giving local storefronts a facelift.
Winter Park City Commissioners approved a new grant program Monday night offering businesses and property owners along Fairbanks Avenue up to $5,000 in cosmetic changes to signs and storefronts.
The city hopes that giving businesses a fresh look along the road will help shape the corridor into an active business district.
“A well-manicured corridor is attractive to business owners and patrons alike,” the agenda item read. “This program’s intent is to increase interest in the Fairbanks Avenue area.”
The new program will involve a matching grant system, where applicants will be reimbursed by up to 25 percent of the total cost of eligible improvements not to exceed $5,000.
Exterior features that are eligible to be reimbursed include storefronts, ledges, gutters, signs, exterior lighting, canopies, awnings, paintings and masonry work.
The program excludes roofs, landscaping or any interior features.
Winter Park can refuse reimbursement if the improvements take longer than six months, and grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
The pilot program will last one year, said Winter Park’s Planning and Community Development Director Dori Stone.
“We began talking about this with our Economic Development Advisory Board two and a half years ago,” Stone said.
“Now seems to be the time.”
But Mayor Ken Bradley said the $25,000 set aside for the façade program should be used elsewhere, and that enough is already planned to improve the corridor, including at least $16 million worth of undergrounding work to remove power lines.
“I’m not opposed to doing anything economically there,” said Bradley, who cast the one dissenting vote in a 4-1 count. “I’m going to vote against this program only because I think there’s other ways.”
Winter Park made another effort to attract new businesses to Fairbanks Avenue back in July when the city approved a water/sewer impact fee incentive program. Businesses under the temporary program can pay the first 20 percent of the impact fees — costs that help pay for stronger water pumps and larger treatment facilities — and have the next 24 months to pay the remaining 80 percent.
Other aesthetic improvements were made to Fairbanks Avenue in 2013, including decorative lighting, repaving and city banners.
City Commissioner Steven Leary said the façade program would help transform the corridor in a positive way, and that the investment is well worth it.
“I think this will help some of the folks that can’t come forward with that type of investment, to help them get to that place,” Leary said.
“One of my friends that came to visit me here got off on Fairbanks and called me and said ‘I don’t think I’m in Winter Park.’ I think we’re making strong strides to help some of those folks redevelop their properties. I think it’s an investment that’s probably well worth it for us right now.”
Stone said multiple businesses have already shown interest in the program, including Lombardi’s Sea Food, who will soon relocate to West Fairbanks Avenue.