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Facade Improvement Spruces up Richmond Highway

Local businesses take advantage of matching grant money.

Hybla Valley Veterinarian had been thinking about making some improvements to their building. So when Becky Witsman, former executive director of The Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC), came by to give them some information about the Façade Improvement Program, they were very interested. This was a couple of years ago; they drew up plans, went through the approval process and are now in the process of redoing their building façade.

“We might have done a few things, but this encouraged us to do more,” said Deb Schrenzel, Veterinarian and office manager.

She said that the approval process went smoothly but it took a long time to find a builder who was willing to work on a small job. She wishes that they had been able to do it earlier because costs have tripled in the past two years. She is hoping that the work will be wrapped up by September.

Hybla Valley Veterinarian is just one of the companies on Route One taking advantage of the program. With comparable programs throughout the county, the requirements for this particular program states that eligible participants must own or rent a structure that fronts on Richmond Highway.

In addition to providing a 50-50 grant match up to $25,000 for building façade improvements, the program also includes free conceptual design services provided by a qualified architect. Companies can either find their own architect, or SFDC can assist companies in locating an architect who will work directly with them to design improvements according to both personal preferences and within the program design guidelines. Improvements can also include funding for signage, site/access design, landscaping and other purposes.

As an added benefit, if a business’ building is over 25 years old, they may also be eligible for real estate tax abatement benefits on the improvements they make.

CURRENTLY IN VARIOUS STAGES of construction are Cintron Lock & Safe; Richmond Highway Center; and Engleside Car Care. Ourisman Ford applied for the grant, but they decided to make the improvements themselves after a delayed approval process.

Two new companies have recently applied for grants—Bodnar Chiropractic Office Building and International Center for Christian Ministries. Rebecca Bostick is the architect for Bodnar and presented at a design review committee meeting held at SFDC’s offices earlier this week. She said that other than being aware of the program’s guidelines, she’s really not doing anything differently than she would for another client. She is working with Bodnar to get through the approval process, and said, “It helps people want to make their buildings nice. It’s great for businesses that need a little extra help.”

According to Lara Fritts, SFDC’s executive director, there is still $161,000 in the matching grant fund, with additional money available for design services.

“This is one step in revitalizing Richmond Highway—one of many things that we’re doing,” she said.