Downtown Provo wins federal development grants

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Business owners in downtown Provo are grabbing at federal funds to renovate storefront facades in a city-led goal to secure economic vitality in the downtown commercial district.

In a joint effort between Provo City and the federal government, Center Street businesses are recipients of a nationwide restoration and development initiative meant to create jobs and strengthen sustainability of economic activity at the municipal level.

David Kang, owner of the newest restaurant in the downtown district, opened Sora and benefited from the initiative by collaborating with Graphik Display & Sign in Lindon, to produce his restaurant logo and fabricate a hanging sidewalk sign.

Kang received a grant which covered all costs of producing the sign and logo.

“It was really painless,” Kang said, “I think all businesses should participate in it.”

The Sora Resturant is the newest spot on Center Street to experience contemporary Asian dining. Sora, means “sky” in Japanese, located at 68 W. Center Street in Provo

The interior decor of the restaurant preserves much of the original historic attributes of the building, with the dining area fused with a contemporary style, Kang said.

The four blocks on Center Street from 100 East to 300 West are registered as a National Historic Place, according to the U.S. Department of Interior.

The Provo City Redevelopment Agency helps manage the Downtown Storefront Facade Matching Grant program and offers funds for interior and exterior improvements to businesses — the program matches $3 for every $1, with a $10,000 maximum.

Cindy Sweeten, RDA Facade Grant Manager, promotes the program by approaching downtown business owners to educate them about its benefits. The grant program is funded by Washington and is locally executed. Applicants are required to obtain at least three bids for storefront improvement projects — RDA offers assistance to applicants for finding contractors and completing all the necessary paperwork for the application.

“All the final decisions come down to the business owner,” Sweeten said regarding architectural design ideas. “We’re just the funding source.”

The Madison, located on the corner of 300 West and Center Street, received grant funds to subsidize the expense of re-painting the facade and installing new storefront windows.

Korey Huhni from Cutler Construction works on the outside of Rice King on Center Street in Provo as part of the restoration and renovation project of storefronts in downtown Provo.

Station 22 participated in the grant program, with a specific stipulation of creating at least one full-time position within a year, according to Sweeten.

The process for the applicant can take up to 90 days, from start until completion. The construction phase lasts between one to two weeks — businesses can remain open during construction, according to Sweeten.

The Utah Valley Convention Center opens May 12, which creates a virtual deadline for the city to revamp the appearance  of the surrounding commercial district so visitors leave with a positive experience from traveling to Provo.

Responding to the convention’s opening, and the integration of the Downtown Storefront Facade Matching Grant program, Sweeten said, “it’s a priority.”

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