More than Face Value
façade loans give city businesses an image boost
Even after the finishing touches are put on South Barstow Street in the coming weeks, downtown won’t be done getting a facelift. Several businesses are taking advantage of no-interest façade loans to spruce up their images.
The program offer businesses downtown and in commercial strips throught the city the chance to update their outward appearances by getting 15-year loans ranging from $5,000 to $30,000. In order to be approved, the business must demonstrate that they are able to pay the loans back and provide detailed plans of what they would do with the money.
Fund manager Beth Waldhart at the Regional Business Fund for West Central Wisconsin said the loans were something that had been missing in the area.
“We just felt with the street being renovated, now would be a good time to try to incorporate a new, fresh look to our building.” – Jon Seybold, co-owner of Houligans Steak & Seafood Pub, on getting a no-interest loan to improve the restaurant’s façadeJulie Mishefske, business assistance specialist for the city of Eau Claire, said those who rent commercial properties can request loans, but building owners need to be involved as well. “The loans have to be secured by the mortgage, so a renter can apply for the loan, but the owner of the building has to put up their mortgage for the building for collateral,” Mishefske said.
“It was a result of the communities within the seven-county region we cover coming together and addressing what gaps in financing there are throughout the region, and one of them was a loan program available to help businesses improve their façades,” Waldhart said. She said building more beautiful downtowns is a way to help improve the economy, because updated façades bring people to areas they may not have frequented before because they lacked visual appeal.
Houligans Steak & Seafood Pub, 415 S. Barstow St., recently took advantage of the Façade Loan Program. Co-owner Jon Seybold said the façade of the building needs a new look.
“We just felt with the street being renovated, now would be a good time to try to incorporate a new fresh look to our building along with the street,” Seybold said. “The timing just seemed to work out for us.”
Seybold found out about this loan by attending a downtown meeting where information was made available on different grants and loans. “We investigated the façade program and the funds were available,” Seybold said. “The low interest rate was super attractive, the terms were good and business friendly, so it made sense for us to investigate further.”
Seybold said they didn’t have a large amount of money to do the renovations that they wanted, so it was a great opportunity to have a loan that could be paid back in 15 years. “It just makes sense from a financial standpoint,” Seybold said. “It’s there for businesses to use.”
Upgrades at Houligans will include restoring and reframing the establishment’s stained-glass windows (although two will be removed from the front); partial removing and recoloring the outdoor pillars; the addition of new black trim around the windows, doors, pillars, and entrance; and updated insulation.
Houligan’s isn’t the only Eau Claire business to take advantage of a façade loan. The Plus (aka Pizza Plus), 208 S. Barstow St., is seeking one, and Peters Real Estate on Hastings Way recently got a facelift courtesy of the program.
The Eau Claire Fire House, 202 Gibson St., used a loan in 2010 to help build its new business. “Funds were tight,” Owner William Glass said. “We kind of started our business on a shoestring budget. We figured we would take advantage of a very cheap loan. It was financially feasible, and it made sense.”
Glass said they are still paying back the loan but said it is the most affordable loan out there and other entrepreneurs should be taking advantage of the opportunity to help their businesses grow.
For more interest on the façade loan program, contact the city of Eau Claire Economic Development Division at (715) 839-4914 or EauClaireDevelopment.com.