YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Calvin Center and Palm Cafe are both fixtures in Youngstown, separated by a half mile on the West Side. What they also have in common is that both owners applied for grants through the city’s facade improvement program which, in the two months of existence, has proven to be quite popular.
The windows at the 136-year-old Calvin Center on Mahoning Avenue date to the 1950s. They need to be replaced before owner Erin Timms can turn the building into a hotel.
“Pretty much 40 windows in this front part of the section and just four windows in the back,” Timms said.
To help with the $48,000 cost, Timms has been awarded a $20,000 grant through Youngstown’s new facade improvement program.
“It will definitely help a lot of us smaller business owners who are trying to make a change,” Timms said.
“It’s up to $20,000 per project. So it’s a dollar-for-dollar match up to $20,000 that we contribute,” said Nikki Posterli, Youngstown’s director of Community Planning and Economic Development.
Posterli says the applications of 10 businesses, like the Calvin Center, have already been approved, and six of them have already been OK’d to get the money.
“It just confirms what we felt — that there’s a need. That the businesses want to stay in the community. They want to spruce up their outside,” Posterli said.
“But I think, Stan, you’ll find out that more people will start hearing about it. The more they say, here’s the opportunity time if I want to invest in my business, this would be the great opportunity to do so,” said Mayor Tito Brown.
“The building is 80 years old and we want to do some beautification projects,” said Rosie Marich, who manages the Palm Cafe on Steel Street.
The Palm Cafe is famous for its Saturday barbecues. Marich has also applied for a facade grant but has not been approved. The Palm also needs $48,000 in improvements, so the $20,000 will help.
“We have people from Pittsburgh and Cleveland. They come from out of state when we do our barbeque. We want to show them that Youngstown is a vital city that is looking very nice,” Marich said.
Youngstown has allocated $1 million of its American Rescue Plan money to the program, which means it could help, at minimum, 50 businesses.
“I hope we run out. I hope we have to come back to the table and ask for more. That would be a great problem to have, right?” Posterli said.
The applications for the facade grants are being handled by Valley Economic Development Partners. The final approval is being done by Youngstown’s Design Review Committee.