Since it was established in 2001, Grove City's Town Center Commercial Revitalization Grant Program has proved a hit with city officials and owners of business properties in the Town Center.
"It's been a home run," Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said.
"You can see where the improvements have been made, and a lot of those projects may not have been completed without the grant program," said Councilman Ted Berry, who represents Ward 1, an area that includes the Town Center.
Berry sponsored the legislation to expand the TCCR program area to the north.
"We're one of the few communities in Ohio that have been successful in retaining and attracting small businesses in our town-center area," he said. "The grant program is a big part of that."
The program's scope was extended March 4 when council members approved legislation to expand the TCCR boundary from just north of Lotz Drive north to Southwest Boulevard.
Stage was city administrator in 2001 when the city established the TCCR.
For the first 17 years, the program was open to business properties from Civic Drive to just north of Columbus Street.
"That was our main downtown area and we wanted to help preserve and improve the facade of our buildings in our Town Center," Stage said.
The program initially was designed to provide matching funds for exterior building improvements, he said.
Eligible projects now include exterior updates to facades, exterior updates to maintain the Town Center character, utility improvements and exterior and interior work to enhance the safety of occupants and the building structure.
The city awards grants of up to $10,000 for projects in the Town Center core and up to $5,000 in the Broadway corridor, south, and now north, of the core.
Grants can provide up to 50 percent of the project cost.
"Often it's a situation where the applicant is providing more than 50 percent of the cost," Stage said. "It's not always a total 50-50 share."
Since the program's inception in 2001, the city has awarded $1,108,517.37 in grants to 298 projects, development director Kyle Rauch said.
The average grant amount is $3,417.29, he said.
The total private investment in the projects has been $1,734,542.69, according to city data.
In 2018, the city awarded 30 projects a total of $135,415 in grant money, Rauch said, and the applicants spent a total of $206,144 on their projects.
The 2019 totals through March 15 show Grove City has provided seven grants totaling $43,145 and the recipients have spent $78,030 on their improvement projects.
Jason Feltz owns and operates Tree of Life Chiropractic at 3711 Broadway, which is located in the northern section of the Town Center that now will be included in the grant program.
He said he's been advocating for an expansion of the TCCR program area for the last couple of years.
"Especially when I saw that they were expanding the program to the south, which was a good idea, I thought there was no reason it shouldn't be expanded to the north," he said. "We're part of the Town Center, so we should be eligible for grant money, too."
The north Broadway corridor serves "as the gateway to the Town Center," Stage said. "When you get to the section of Broadway that starts at the intersection with Southwest Boulevard, you know you've entered our Town Center.
"It just makes sense to extend the grant program to the north," he said.
The program area was expanded to the south in 2018 to more closely match the area identified as the Town Center Core in the GroveCity2050 community plan, Stage said.
Any business, property owner or nonprofit or not-for-profit organization within the Town Center Core or the Broadway Corridor can apply for grants. Projects must be completed before grant funds are disbursed.
Although more properties will be eligible to apply for grant money, the amount of available funds will not be increasing, Berry said.
"It's still a first-come, first-serve application process," he said.
Expanding the grant program will help maintain the older residences in the north Broadway corridor area that are occupied by businesses, Berry said.
Those businesses are small and need the assistance the grant program can provide, he said.
"The mom-and-pop businesses don't have the resources that a larger company does, and they don't have the advantage of being supported by a parent company like a franchisee would," Berry said.
The TCCR grant program encourages small businesses to make the improvements to enhance the Town Center area, he said.
"I've talked to people who own businesses in this area and they want to do things to improve their property, but they may not have the ability to do the project themselves," Feltz said. "Expanding the program area will allow more people to think about doing improvement projects."
The application process and the fact that receiving grant money is not automatic will help lead to better projects, he said.
"It's going to make people really think about planning more efficient and effective projects to help increase their chances of getting a grant," Feltz said. "And if properties are getting improved to the north, I think that will help spur more investment and development in the corridor."
Feltz opened Tree of Life a little more than four years ago at 3711 Broadway, a building he rents.
Later this year, he will move his practice two doors down, to 3725 Broadway, a building he has purchased.
"We're doing a lot of renovations in the new building to get it ready, and I was happy to put that money forward whether or not I could be eligible for a grant," Feltz said. "I want to do anything I can to encourage businesses in this area to improve their property because it enhances the whole Town Center."
That's important to him, he said, because he both works and lives in the north Broadway corridor.
Feltz said he intends to apply for grant money after he completes the renovations to his building.