Cambridge Expands Facade Program - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Cambridge Expands Facade Program

CAMBRIDGE, Md.- A grant that allows home and business owners to upgrade the exterior of their buildings in Cambridge is expanding to a three mile radius of downtown.

The facade improvement program started roughly a year ago, as a way to cut costs on property owners looking to spruce up their buildings.  For business owners, the program covers either 50 percent of upgrade costs or up to $7,500.  For homeowners, that rate increases to 65 percent or up to $9,750.

Jack Helgeseon, owner of Choptank Charlies, took advantage of the program to put up a sign and replace several awnings that were torn and over a decade old.

"It saves us money, it helps the town look better.  When tourists come to town, they tell people good things and not bad things, and it helps increase business," said Helgeson.

Up the street at Reale Revival Brewing, owner JT Merryweather was originally planning a more modest storefront, but when made aware of the program, the design expanded to include two massive sliding doors, a sign, two awnings, and lighting.

"With the façade improvement program, we were actually able to spend an extra $7,000 on the project, and we actually saved about $2,500 so it was really a big swing for us," said Merryweather.

Like Helgeson, he says the facade is a big factor in drawing customers through the door.

"I get comments on a daily basis as to how well we've done with our façade between the sign, the awnings, the rollup doors everybody loves," said Merryweather.

But it's not just businesses that can take advantage of the program.  Cambridge Economic Development director Natalie Chabot says many homeowners are also requesting the grant money.

"We want to improve the community broadly, not just in the commercial district.  And as a result, we probably have more residential applicants now than we do commercial." said Chabot.

The department says in total, over 75 people have expressed interest in the program, and 25 have either completed or are preparing for their upgrades.

The money for the grant comes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Chabot says this is a reimbursement, and that property owners will have to pay the full cost at first before the town sends a check.

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