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Downtown businesses to get facelifts, more grants on the way

Each grant is worth up to $2,500 to go towards things like repairs and murals on storefronts
Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 4:42 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Tourism is booming in the Cape Fear and Wilmington Downtown Inc. wants to keep it that way by making sure there are no signs of eyesores.

“Wilmington being beautiful is what we’re all about,” said Holly Childs, president and CEO of WDI. “We definitely want people to love their experience when they come to downtown Wilmington and be able to support our local businesses. This accomplishes both goals.”

Cosmetic projects mostly got put on the back burner over the last year. That’s why WDI wants to lend a hand.

“Given COVID, the pandemic, people were really just trying to stay open and weren’t so worried about their facades,” said Childs.

Five businesses in downtown Wilmington received grants for façade improvement projects in the last few weeks. Each grant was worth up to $2,500 to go towards things like repairs and murals on storefronts.

Some recipients have already completed projects like Taco Baby’s mural.

“WDI came in and said ‘we want to give you this grant money to help you through it and gave us some money and helped pay for the artwork and some of the other refurbishments we’ve done outside,” said Taco Baby co-owner Joe Apkarian.

Apkarian hopes the new mural at Taco Baby will help draw in more customers from nearby hotels. The grant comes just months after fighting to keep his mural at Pour House in the historic district, so it’s a nice change of pace for the business owner.

“The humor’s not lost on me,” said Apkarian. “It all came from the new crew at WDI. They’re absolutely fantastic and they’re doing the right things for the right reasons in that they’re trying to support all of downtown.”

Meanwhile, Front Street Brewery is planning on repainting the façade of its building. It also hopes to fix some cosmetic issues brought on by Hurricane Florence, much like Efird Commercial Real Estate’s plans for its grant.

“We’re going to be stripping all of that down, refinishing it, and then painting the facade itself to really bring it back to life,” said Front Street Brewery marketing director Ellie Craig. “This facade grant is going to give us the opportunity to really make this building shine again.”

Better Basket also received a grant. Childs says leaders there hope to improve their signage and take care of rotting wood on the facade. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Arts Center’s plans are a bit bigger than what the grant can cover, but WDI was still happy to help.

“Cat’s Cottage was a great project,” said Childs. “That is an overall historic renovation project, so our $2,500 was just a drop in a bucket, but an important drop we like to think.”

The overall hope for all five recipients is that visitors will like what they see from the sidewalk and spend money inside.

While only one is left for this round of checks, more could be on the way for others. Childs says there are discussions happening in the coming weeks to hopefully add more funds to the program and offer five more grants this fiscal year. Those grants would also only be for businesses in the Municipal Services District.

To apply for those grants, contact WDI online.

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