ST. PETE BEACH — The city of St. Pete Beach is looking to spruce up their downtown by partnering with small businesses. This month, they launched a grant program called, Business Site Improvement Program, which aims to fund improvements in the area.
Grant applications opened at the beginning of April and the initial funding is $50,000. Businesses looking to make outside building improvements can apply for a grant that would cover half the total cost of improvements up to $7,500.
Site improvement projects include outdoor beautification, historic preservation compliance, parking improvements and signage, among others. St. Pete Beach is teaming up with the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce for the initiative.
The prospect of applying has one local small business owner on board with the grant program.
“Well, I think people are attracted to Main Street downtown USA,” Art Expo Custom Framing Gallery owner Yvonne Marcos said.
For the past 44 years, Marcos worked to make the inside of her gallery sparkle, but what about the outside?
“A lot of business owners have improved their interiors but not necessarily the exteriors. My exterior, in fact, I have old windows that would never be allowed,” Marcos said. "We all see the success of the murals in downtown St. Pete and other areas, as an art gallery I can tell you I’ve already considered putting a mural on the back of my building."
Small businesses like Art Expo Custom Framing Gallery are the reason St. Pete Beach Mayor Alan Johnson is trying to help through the $50,000 Business Site Improvement Program.
“St. Pete Beach is built on small business," Johnson said. "We got a ton of them doing all sorts of different things. So, any help we can do to make them successful just improves that quality of life for our residents and our visitors."
As part of this program, the city is also offering loans to help businesses comply with new code requirements.
“A great example of this is a restaurant, they might have to update their grease traps, we now have an opportunity for that restaurant to apply for this funding and help offset some of that burden,” Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce's Robin Miller said.
The deadline to apply for the program is May 13.