Lake Norman & Mooresville

New grant program to stimulate business interest in Davidson’s historic district

Davidson invests in downtown spaces

A new grant program that aims to spur small business investment along Davidson’s historic Main Street will begin accepting applications on Sept. 1.

The Davidson Main Street Solutions Grant was approved by town officials earlier this summer as a way to make permanent improvements to the interiors and exteriors of existing businesses, as well as revamp interest in the few vacant storefronts.

The Davidson Economic Development Department allocated $10,000 to be awarded in 2014-15 in amounts of at least $1,000 to new and established small businesses, said Cristina Shaul, town public information officer.

Whether through new construction or by renovating existing properties, grant money must be used for permanent improvements such as floors or windows, not furniture or appliances.

“We are trying to get more viable commercial space in Davidson in general, especially in this historic downtown block,” Shaul said

The grant funding is geared toward the stretch of historic Main Street that runs from the Davidson College Store at the corner of Depot Street down to Mooney’s Corner, next to Town Hall, Shaul said.

She estimated there are less than a half-dozen vacant storefronts but said that town officials hope the grant will help draw in new ventures or help make improvements to spaces with current tenants and help retain them.

“We value the businesses we already have and would love to bring more business and retail establishments to the area,” she said.

Through a survey, residents have let town officials know “they want more places to shop and be employed (in Davidson.)

“This is one aspect that could help improve that,” Shaul said.

Applications will be accepted in 90-day waves until all funding has been awarded. The first application period will run from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30.

To be eligible for grant funding, the program requires a 2-to-1 private match, meaning a business would need to put $2,000 toward a project to receive $1,000 in grant funding, Shaul said. The Davidson Economic Development Department is part of town government and is funded by general fund tax dollars.

“We wanted our business owners to have a financial stake in the grant,” she said, noting a similar grant from the state also requires a 2-to-1 match.

Millstone Bake House & Provisions and The Pickled Peach are two businesses that Shaul said needed to renovate the Main Street spaces they recently moved into. Had the grant been established, they would have been eligible for the funds “as part of our business retention and attraction process.”

The panel of town staff and residents that will review grant applications is in the process of being put together, Shaul said, noting they won’t begin meeting until November. Anyone interested in learning more or possibly serving on the panel can contact Davidson’s economic development manager, Kim Fleming.

Town officials hope to offer the grant again in Fiscal Year 2015-16, but say it will depend on a review of this initial year.