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Matching grant fund targeting downtown

City puts up $50,000 to help select businesses update building facades
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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After more than a year of planning, the city of Rocklin has finally announced a new matching grant program that could give downtown businesses a facelift. With a total of $50,000 available, the city has launched the Central Rocklin Area Facade, Revitalization and Accessibility Grant Program. Barber Bill Adrian, owner of the Rocklin Barber Shop on Rocklin Road, has filed an application requesting funds to update aging wood shingles on his 1970s era business facade. “They’re starting to come apart,” Adrian said. “The way the economy is right now things are a little short. This gives me a good opportunity to spruce up a little bit.” With an estimated cost of $4,000, if approved by the city, Adrian could receive 50 percent as a matching grant. “Hey, it’s free money,” Adrian said. The program is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and allocated through the city of Rocklin. Officials with the Rocklin Area Chamber of Commerce and Rediscover Rocklin, a group of downtown business owners, have expressed support for the grant program even though it excludes most Rocklin businesses. The program is being offered only to businesses along Rocklin Road from Interstate 80 west to Pacific Street and Pacific Street from Farron Street to Midas Avenue. Rocklin Director of Community Development Sherri Abbas explained the reason those areas were targeted. “We did not include Granite Drive, or the rest of the commercial areas in the city for that matter, because they are newer, not in as distressed a state physically, and do not face many of the same challenges as this particular geographic area,” Abbas said. One of the initial concerns raised focused on whether the city would waive many of the permit fees. City Manager Rick Horst said what could have been upward of $6,000 in some cases for design review costs will now be a flat fee of $250 through the program. “A big component of the program was finding a way to reduce the permitting cost. We have now done so and have reduced the fees for Façade related projects significantly,” Horst said. “It didn’t make much sense to offer a grant when, in some cases, the permit cost would exceed the grant award.” Franklin Burris, past chairman of the Rocklin Chamber and past chairman the city’s Redevelopment Advisory Committee, said the program is a good first start. “This program is one of the first financial incentives to leverage private investment Rocklin has done,” Burris said. “As we look to position ourselves for the recovery, this is a great strategic investment, a tool to talk about, and aim at small business — the number one generator of jobs.” City officials admit about half a dozen businesses are interested in the 50-50 matching grant, including Ourada Engineering, a surveying and civil engineering firm currently located on Sunset Boulevard. Office Manager Christa Warner said they are considering using the grant program to help make repairs to a century old house on the southeast corner of Pacific and Oak Streets. The firm would like to relocate the office to the small building, which has a blue tarp covering the roof. “There is lots of work that needs to be done,” Warner said. “It’s definitely a huge project.” Grants are only available for rehabilitation work that is visible from the public right-of-way and improves the appearance of the area that can be seen from public streets or pedestrian walkways, according to the guidelines. Even so, the city is hoping the grants could create additional business for Rocklin businesses not included in the grant process. Don Prather of Rocklin’s Signs by Design said even though signage is not specifically covered in the grant allocation the awarded business may need his help. “They change their building (facade) and now their sign doesn’t belong there because it’s too old or doesn’t look right. It could be a spin off (business),” Prather said. Deadline for applications is 5 p.m. May 31. The funds will be allocated in August 2012 and award notifications mailed shortly thereafter. Applications have already been mailed to the eligible downtown properties. To obtain an application and program guidelines, including a map of the eligible properties, visit the City’s website at rocklin.ca.us/facadeprogram. Or call Dara Dungworth in the Community Development Department at 625-5160 for more information.