EASTHAM — The town plans to spend $125,000 to help selected local businesses improve their appearance.
The plan is funded by the town’s allocation under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The remainder of Eastham’s $512,000 will be used mainly for wastewater projects.
“Our plan is to help about four businesses a year,” said Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe.
The project will start with a pilot year, economic development planner Lauren Barker said. Businesses will receive awards of up to $25,000 each. They will be required to contribute 20 percent of the total project cost. An additional $25,000 will be reserved for technical assistance, including engineering, marketing, and administration.
Barker first proposed this approach at a planning board meeting last October and gave an update last month. Applications will be accepted from Sept. 15 to Oct. 17. A committee comprising town staff and business representatives will review the applications, and the select board will give out awards in December.
Eligible improvements include outdoor seating for dining, painting and siding, shutters and awnings, landscaping and planter boxes, exterior signs, parking, and walkways.
“We plan to apply,” said Crittenden Bliss, co-owner with his wife, Caroline, of Caroline’s Bar & Grill in North Eastham. If they get an award, the couple say, they may use the money to paint the building, improve the parking lot, or remove a derelict boat from the property.
Proposals will be evaluated based on how they fit with the town’s strategic and economic priorities and their potential for community and economic impact. The aim is to increase sales, boost property values, create jobs, and enhance equity.
“This is part of the grand vision,” Beebe said. “We’ve been working on this for five years or more.”
The Cape Cod Commission designated a corridor of North Eastham along Route 6 as a District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) in 2017. Since then, the town has acquired the T-Time and Town Center Plaza properties with the aim of creating a walkable “downtown” in North Eastham. The exterior improvement funds are not intended for those properties, Barker said: “We have other sources of funding for those.”
Barker said businesses outside the DCPC are eligible to apply for the exterior improvement funds.
“We know businesses have been hit hard,” Beebe said. While special regulations created in response to the pandemic allowed restaurants to offer outdoor dining, that did not free them from zoning and health requirements. The exterior improvement funds could be used to help cover those costs.
“We want to offer businesses a streamlined way to get compliant and give them some funds for that,” Barker said. Efforts could also focus on making parking areas more visually appealing or simply less visible.
The selection committee will have five members: Barker, Town Planner Paul Lagg, select board member Art Autorino, Eastham Chamber of Commerce President Jim Russo, and Pam Andersen of the Community Development Partnership.