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Entrepreneurs, Developers Wanted: Downtown Dayton to See $500,000 Public Investment

Dayton's central business district will see a transformation if a newly adopted program succeeds as planned.

The city council approved, by a vote of 4-1, the Commercial Community Advantage Program (CCAP) at Tuesday night's meeting. The program, developed by Main Street manager Anthony Cadle, City Administrator Michael Giffen, and others, will earmark $500,000 from the city's economic development funds to offer four grants targeted at new investment along part of Sixth Avenue. 

"Everyone in office ran on the promise of improving our downtown," said Mayor Virgil Boruske. "We had to do something to find out if there was any vitality hidden within our Avenue. My administration has worked hard to develop the tools to do just that and I am looking forward to seeing what those tools will accomplish."

The funds will be used in the form of four grant opportunities: rental abatement, uniform signage, business occupancy, and structural improvement. Each grant reimburses a percentage of private investment made by applicants.

The new rental abatement program is possibly the most ambitious in the region, offering tenants a 50% match in the first two years of existence and then a full 100% in the third year. The signage funds will help new and existing businesses with purchasing new, artistic signage for their exteriors. The occupancy grant offers a 10% reimbursement for businesses purchasing and opening in eligible commercial property. The structural grant will provide applicants with a 20% reimbursement of costs for projects that improve the physical property.

"CCAP isn't just about filling storefronts and improving our downtown commercial district," said Cadle. "It is designed to assist developing businesses and cultivate great success for the entrepreneurs that invest in our community."

The program was not passed without concerns.

"I am not against CCAP because I campaign on Main Street," said Councilman Bill Burns, who ultimately cast the sole vote against the program. "I want everybody to understand we're taking half a million dollars and investing it in a two-block radius. My job is to make sure the monies are there for police protection, fire protection, and public works. I think it's way too much money to invest in a two-block radius. I think we need to re-investigate this."

Cadle said that the program actually extends across four blocks, from Sixth Avenue and Ervin Terrace in the west to Sixth Avenue and Berry Street in the east.

Councilman Denny Lynn, who voted for the plan, expressed concern about the third year of the rental abatement program. "My thoughts are, I think it should be 50% across the board for all three years," he said, "instead of doing 100% at the end of the third year. If a business is there and they're in their third year, I think they need to be ready for that fourth year when they pick up the whole thing."

"If we spend zero money on this grant program, we will get zero investment," Councilman Joe Neary said. "If we were to have maximum participation in this, we would have eight or nine new businesses on the avenue."

Cadle said that the investment program would trigger $1.6 million in private investment, for a total of $2.1 million combined public/private investment, based on a calculation he made with real estate and tax factors.

Neary asked that because the grant program will not require council approval after it is implemented that Cadle and Giffen make monthly reports on its progress.

Councilman Ben Baker expressed his support for the ambitious program that will inject investment dollars into a struggling central business district that sits in the shadow of the popular Fairfield Avenue in neighboring Bellevue. "It's an amazing tool in our toolbox to help revitalize not only the four blocks it impacts with incentives but the whole city in the quality of life," Baker said. 

Neary, Lynn, Baker, and Councilman Joey Tucker voted in favor with Burns voting against. Councilman Jerry Gifford was absent and Mayor Borsuke only votes to break ties.

Interested entrepreneurs and/or developers should contact Cade at 859.491.1600 (extension 229) or email him.

The program is part of a three-year contract between the City of Dayton and its businesses, Cadle said. It will utilize the support of the Small Business Development Center at Northern Kentucky University, Service Corp of Retired Executives, and the Rekindle Program at the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission.

"We worked hard to fine-tune this already well-written ordinance," Baker said. "After speaking with many business owners and community members I am excited to bring this type of incentive to our Main Street."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that the total public/private investment could be $1.6 million. That is the estimated private investment alone. The total combined investment is expected to be $2.1 million. The story has been updated.

Story & photo by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News