A new pilot program is helping bodega and small business owners spiff up their storefronts in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. The idea behind the Commercial Corridor Challenge—funded by Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) NYC along with the NYC Department of Small Business Services and Citi Community Development—is to keep existing small businesses with storefronts competitive as their neighborhoods change around them.
The pilot program offers grants to existing businesses that help owners, who also expend some of their own capital to spiff up their signs, windows, and awnings. The grant program functions off the premise that “a few improved storefronts along a strip can encourage other merchants to tidy up, which will in turn increase perceptions of street safety and drive foot traffic,” the Wall Street Journal says.
The program is currently working with community partners to spiff up the commercial corridors of Fulton Street in East New York, Bay Street on Staten Island, and Southern Boulevard in the Bronx. It’s worth noting that the three areas targeted by the program have already undergone, or are poised to undergo, a rezoning by the De Blasio administration.
The rezoning of East New York and along with it the Fulton Street corridor was approved by the City Council in 2016. The Department of City Planning is still studying possible effects of rezoning Staten Island’s Bay Street Corridor, and has also been looking into rezoning the Bronx’s Southern Boulevard.
It’s unclear if the Commercial Corridor Challenge is part and parcel of the active and proposed rezonings. Curbed NY has reached out to the Department of Small Business Services for comment, and will update here accordingly.
UPDATE: The Department of Small Business Services says that the Commercial Corridor Challenge is a supplement to the department’s Neighborhood 360° program, which develops customized, commercial revitalization programs tailored to the needs of neighborhoods and commercial districts experiencing rapid change.
Community organizations that were grantees of the program were then invited to apply for the Commercial Corridor Challenge. Those organizations include the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation of East New York, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, and WHEDco of the Bronx.