May Mu attended a meeting last month to look at ways to improve the face of her building at 636 Main St., in the heart of the downtown, which houses Family Dental. She talked about adding windows to the second story. Mu has owned a business in Reading for 31 years, she told Patch then.
She and five other business or property owners have received grants under the local Building Façade and Signage Improvement Program that will change the look of six properties in the downtown area.
Mu received $5,000 for façade work.
On Haven Street, three businesses and one property owner received grants:
Matteo Gallo, owner of 75 Haven St., $1,500 for façade improvements; Atlantic Framing, 78 Haven, up to $1,000, for an awning; William Crowley, an attorney, at 159 Haven St., $1,000 for a sign; and Intent Architects, 1 Haven St., $500 for a sign.
Our House Design Build at 57-59 High St. received $1,000 for window boxes and a sign.
The town’s Economic Development Committee launched the “curb appeal” program in March. The committee received 10 applications by the April 30 deadline, Staff Planner Jessie Wilson told Patch. They requested a total of $20,000, she said.
The committee earmarked a total of $10,000 from the Downtown Improvement Trust, not tax money, to fund the improvements. Recipients must match their grant.
A student from the Boston Architectural College, Michael LaFontant, is working with each recipient on project designs.
The program aims to create “curb appeal” for businesses in the downtown business area, committee member George Rio told the audience at the first meeting and to drive “continued economic commerce to individual stores.”
Besides design assistance, permit fees will be waived for all approved projects, according to the committee and the permitting process will be concise, while adhering to local regulations.
At the charrette, or design session on May 23, LaFontant offered the audience general, basic ideas on how they might improve their curb appeal. He talked about cleaning and repairing storefronts, if necessary, and maybe just painting them; adding details based on a storefront’s architectural features to make the facade pop; and using features such as an awning or lighting or a sign – possibly a “blade” sign which hangs perpendicularly from the building.
LaFontant showed a photo of Haven Street, taken facing west, toward the train station. With the current signage, you can’t tell what businesses line the street, he pointed out. Blade signs would make them visible, he said.
Then he talked with several business owners about their specific properties and ideas.
The town will begin to enforce sign regulations passed about 10 years ago. Their grace period is expiring.
Grant recipients will meet with the building facade and sign committee on July 16, according to the town’s staff planner, to review the final designs and the next steps to get permits for the proposed changes.