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Brighton Starts Downtown Storefront Improvement Program

The Brighton Downtown Development Authority has just initiated a new program to provide low-interest loans for merchants to improve the looks of their storefronts.

Cheryl Mayday, owner of downtown Brighton's , had always wanted to improve the looks of her building, which was getting to look a bit dated. With the help of a program initiated by the Brighton Downtown Development Authority this month, she will likely now have that opportunity.  

"I think it's great," she said of Brighton's new, low-interest facade improvement program. "I think (the facade program) is going to improve the looks of downtown," Mayday said.

The DDA has arranged a program in which qualifying downtown businesses can get a loan of up to $35,000 at 2.5 percent interest to upgrade and modernize their storefront. It's a cooperative venture between the DDA and two local banks: First National Bank and the Livingston Community Bank.

"Each bank is giving the DDA a line of credit for $100,000," said DDA Director Matt Modrack.  The way it works, each business will pay the DDA back and the DDA will pay the banks. 

Mark Binkley, owner of at 105 W. Main St., has had various leadership roles in Brighton's downtown for many years, and likes what he sees with the facade program. 

"I think there are several buildings downtown that could use a little TLC," said Binkley, who's also chairman of Brighton's principal shopping district and vice chair of the DDA Board of Directors. "Some buildings looked good in the 60's and 70's but now need (a 21st Century update)," he said.

In Mayday's case it's not just one business but five that would benefit, since there are five retail stores in the building she owns in the 400 block of West Main Street, next to the .  

Besides her own, the businesses in her building also include the , , Main Street Cheese Shop and .

Mayday's building has been approved for the low-interest facade loan, and the project now hinges on the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The DDA is seeking a Michigan Strategic Fund grant of $108,000 through the MEDC.

 "I wouldn't be able to do this without the facade program," Mayday said.  

The DDA has already had a facade program of sorts in which businesses get two hours of free design services from Brighton architectural firm , which Mayday said she has taken advantage of.  

Another business, at Grand River and North Street, has already been approved by the MEDC for a $50,000 grant which would benefit mostly the Grand River Avenue side. Champ's is also in line for a facade improvement loan from the DDA.   

Modrack said priority for facade loans is given to businesses that can leverage grants, such as Mayday's and Champ's Pub.  

"It's a point system," he said. "High priority is given to projects that bring additional funding in." 

Other criteria for acceptance: The business is on the DDA's target list for facade improvements, is within the downtown area as defined by the principal shopping district, is a historic building, total project cost and owner match of more than 25 percent.

Mayday's new facade is a "go" for next spring, pending MEDC approval and City Council OK of the site plan.

"The whole front will be torn down," she said. "It will be brick with new windows and doors. Instead of one long storefront it's going to look like it's separated (between businesses)." 

"(Facade upgrades) can be a financial hardship or burden," Binkley said, "but if there is some mechanism by which storefronts can be improved at relatively low cost, everyone benefits.

"It's going to give people the opportunity to do something (a) that they couldn't before afford to do at all or b) who now will be able to do things in a more grand way." 

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