Wauconda hoping business incentives create domino effect of building upgrades
A new tool to improve businesses and hopefully spark copy cats has been introduced in Wauconda.
The facade improvement program will match business' expenses for dozens of eligible improvements, such as exterior restoration or repair, doors, windows, stairs and railings, signage, lighting and other elements.
Village officials have budgeted $50,000 for the inaugural year of the program. A project must cost a minimum of $5,000 to be eligible for a 50% village match.
Unlike similar programs in other communities that target a specific part of town, Wauconda's is open to all takers.
"Any commercial property in town is eligible -- we didn't want to exclude," said village Trustee Tim Howe, chair of the board's economic development committee. That panel will review applications and make recommendations to the village board for a final vote.
The purpose is to stimulate and provide incentives to enhance aesthetics, promote redevelopment, reduce blight and bring properties in line with village corridor plans.
"Any improvement generally improves the business climate," Howe said. "That stimulates investment across the board."
Howe said a program of this sort was considered about a year and a half ago, but put on hold due to the pandemic.
Greg Anderson, the village's community development director, said the incentive can be used anywhere in town.
"You can get a lot more done if you have a 50% contribution from the village," he said. "We're hoping it has a domino effect."
Though offered on a first come, first-serve basis, applications will be carried over to the next year if funds are exhausted, he added.
"Everybody stays in line," Anderson said. "The next year when the (budget) appropriation happens, we'll figure it out."
Howe said village officials decided $50,000 an appropriate level of funding without creating budget issues in other areas.
There have been three or four nibbles from potential candidates for the program, Anderson said, but no applications have been received or reviewed. Owners of multiple buildings, storefronts or a retail center can apply for more than one incentive, according to program guidelines.
Other eligible work includes demolition, canvas awnings or canopies, restoration of historic details like storefronts or glass, and perennial landscaping and plantings. Architectural or engineering design services up to $1,000 also are eligible.