Commercial buildings in Mineola might look a lot different in a few years, thanks to a façade improvement grant assistance program that was approved by the village board of trustees last week.
At their meeting on Feb. 3, the board agreed to create the program, which will help business owners and tenants within designated areas of the village receive financial help to upgrade the look of their business, as well as create a more cohesive look in the commercial area.
“Mineola has been growing on a great path over the last few years, and this is really going to enhance the whole opportunity to grow correctly,” said Thomas Savino from Vision Accomplished, the village’s community development coordinator, which is spearheading the project. “This will improve the downtown atmosphere.”
The program will allow owners of commercial properties to enter into a contract with the village, as well as receive planning, guidance and the use of approved contractors, sign and awning makers, electricians, etc. The program relieves the business owners of a lot of the grunt work, as the village will head up the legwork of doing things such as getting the design plans, finding contractors, getting quotes and making sure everything is up to code. The village will pay for up to 75 percent of the upgrades, with the business contributing at least 25 percent.
Major funding for the program would come from community development block grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Not only will the program provide financial help and resources for business owners looking to upgrade their exterior, but it will also help the village cut down on “visual noise,” by implementing a more uniform, aesthetically pleasing look among all the storefronts.
“This will harmoniously improve the exterior of the buildings, reduce visual noise and create a cohesive aesthetic,” said Savino. “One of our goals is to create a quiet, attractive appearance that reduces distraction.”
The most standard plan proposed for businesses includes installing new signs with gold lettering, goose neck lights, non-retractable awnings (in grey or burgundy) and accessories such as sign panels. There’s also a secondary plan for those that want to do additional work, such as painting or window installation. Building owners could choose to do as much as they wanted, opting to just add new signage for example, or to change the whole exterior surface. The design includes flexibility so while all the stores will look cohesive, they won’t all look exactly the same.
The village is currently rolling this program out to 48 storefronts portions (about 35 stores), from Station Plaza, north to Harrison Avenue, including both sides of Mineola Boulevard. This phase would be a one to two year project, depending on funding. As additional funding is allocated, the village will roll out the program to more businesses.
The store owners will be presented with a rendering (free of charge to them) on what their business could look like with an upgraded design and can then decide whether or not they want to participate. If a business signs up, they would have to pay the village one-third of the estimated cost within seven days, then the rest in payments (if a business defaults, the cost is added to their tax bills). Business owners will still have to go through the building department and apply for permits for the improvements they want to do, yet permit fees will be waived.
“There’s no downside for the owner to at least entertain it,” said Savino. “It’s up to them if they want to do it.”
Savino noted that creating a more cohesive look has proven benefits, noting the success of downtown Farmingdale and Westbury which underwent similar projects.
“This not only increases value, but also helps to encourage new businesses looking for a place to land and for a new site for to go. They see the municipality and the community is paying attention, and cares about the quality of their downtown,” Savino said.
Now that the program has been approved, a letter will go out to all building and tenants explaining the program and forewarning that a contracting group will be taking measurements and compiling data on the site. Then RFPs will go out and costs will be estimated, and the information and renderings will be taken to the businesses.
The village board expressed unanimous support for the project.
“We’ve already done pavers in that area and asked [business owners] to beautify their business. It’s a start, but it’s not what you’re offering,” said trustee Dennis Walsh. “I think this is a great idea. We’re in the process of revitalizing our downtown and this is just the next step.”
“It will be successful and we’re looking to expand this throughout the village as long as the funding and opportunities allow us,” Mayor Scott Strauss said. “This is an exciting time. We’re looking to change the face of the village in a positive way. It’s been a long time coming.”