ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s not hard to spot an empty storefront in downtown Albuquerque. But, the city says its effort to change that is paying off.

“Visually, when you’re walking downtown, you’re already seeing that activation of street-level properties, and it brings a lot of good energy to downtown,” said Sarah Allen, public information officer for Albuquerque’s Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency.

The city used $500,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds for downtown storefront grants. Small businesses with fewer than 250 employees and within the core of downtown, which the city defines as Lomas to Broadway and Coal to 11th, could apply.

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Allen said there was a lot of interest from small businesses. “It makes us excited because we want to activate downtown. So, seeing these businesses excited to take advantage of programs we have to offer makes us want to work with the local businesses to help support them and help revitalize that downtown community,” said Allen.

Applicants were evaluated on a first come, first serve basis. According to Allen, 15 businesses were awarded $30,000-$35,000 to start or expand their business on a ground-level downtown storefront property. Recipients include Wing It Up, Dry Heat Comedy Club, and Blue Door Patisserie, which is opening a second location on Park Avenue because of the grant.

Allen said nine recipients are up and operating, with the remaining six expected to open within six months. “We love working with local businesses, and we love these resources for them to utilize to help grow their businesses,” said Allen.

While the $500,000 has been expended, the city is still taking applications for a waitlist. The city encourages small businesses to apply and be on the waitlist for when more grant money comes down the pipeline.