Grant program reinvigorates storefronts, business
Date: 5/17/2011May 16, 2011
By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD Build it and they will come.
For John Horrigan, the general manager of Mirkin's Cleaners on State Street, the line from the movie "Field of Dreams" sums up the reaction to a new sign the long-time business erected with a grant from the Corridor Storefront Improvement Program (CSIP).
"We've seen more customers because of that sign," Horrigan said after a press event announcing the CSIP program.
He added the business has been in its location for the past seven years, but the signage on the building has not helped it much as the freestanding sign on a pole facing State Street.
"Cars coming down [State Street] notice the sign," Horrigan added.
The CSIP program is one of the initiatives started by DevelopSpringfield, a non-profit organization started to bring about additional business development in the city. Nick Fyntrilakis, the chairman of the group and assistant vice president of Community Responsibility at Mass Mutual, said the fa ade program is a $1 million effort. Funded in half by the city with businesses providing the other half, CSIP has already granted almost $100,000 to various businesses for signage and landscaping, he said.
Businesses along the State Street Corridor and Main Street are eligible to apply for the grants. Business owners can receive up to $10,000 and must provide a 25 percent grant.
Fyntrilakis said the group has partnered with the Latino Chamber of Commerce to expand its reach among minority-owned businesses.
The Community Music School, the Western Massachusetts Development Corporation and the Collins Block on Main Street have also been recipients of grants from the program, Fyntrilakis said.
The CSIP program grew out of the major redevelopment of the State Street Corridor that was completed last year, he explained. Fyntrilakis said the public-private group "can move more nimbly than out partners in state government."
DevelopSpringfield is currently working on two new projects. One, in conjunction with American International College (AIC), would improve the "eastern gateway to city" in the Austin Street and Roosevelt Avenue area. Fyntrilakis said the project would seek additional retail development that would benefit both residents and AIC students.
The group is also exploring bringing a supermarket to the area of Oak, Union and Walnut streets near Springfield Technical Community College (STCC). Part of the property is a parking lot for STCC and part of it is not being used, Fyntrilakis said. There would be benefits such as making quality food available to downtown neighborhoods as well as job creation, he explained.
Horrigan said he would like to see a supermarket that close to his business as the development of a CVS Pharmacy across the street has been a plus for the cleaners.
Mayor Domenic Sarno said programs such as CSIP "prime the pump" for further development.
To apply for the façade program, contact the Western Massachusetts Enterprise Fund at 420-0183, ext. 107, which administers the grants for DevelopSpringfield.
For more information on DevelopSpringfield, go to www.developspringfield.com