ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Empty storefronts in downtown Albuquerque aren’t the most inviting sight. The city is trying to fill them up, announcing new incentives to lure new businesses downtown and grow the ones already there.
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It’s using half a million dollars of American Rescue Plan Act funding to give up to $30,000 to small businesses who occupy a vacant, street-level downtown spot. Existing downtown businesses can also get some funding if they expand their business by 50%.
“It’s all designed to, again, to help the businesses that are there and to attract new businesses to downtown,” said Lawrence Rael, chief operations officer for the City of Albuquerque.
The incentive is an idea, longtime downtown business owner, Steve Vatoseow, is on board with.
“As far as new businesses moving in, I welcome them and I think it would just make a lively, family-friendly place, people will want to come to,” said Vatoseow, owner of Lindy’s Diner. “I would definitely like to see these vacant buildings rehabilitated and possibly new businesses you know moved in.”
For the grant money, the city is defining downtown as Lomas to Coal and Broadway to 11th. Businesses can also get extra funding if they show how they’ll bring visitors from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. four days a week. The goal is to help get families and people working downtown to also shop and eat there during weeknights.
“It really is to create a sustainability for the entire week, not just the weekends. Because we do fairly well on weekends. It’s the weekdays that becomes a challenge,” said Rael. He’d like to see different types of businesses apply for the grant money.
“The younger scene at the bars, etc. I think we do pretty well there all things considered. It’s more diversifying it a bit,” Rael said. The city is also investing $2.2 million of ARPA funding for residential housing projects, with the possibility of transforming empty office space into new housing.
“Housing is an important piece. Without people downtown, these businesses don’t succeed,” said Rael. He also said the city is looking at downtown zoning to make it as ‘pro-business’ as possible.
Vatoseow said some revitalization will take time after the pandemic. “Our biggest problem right now is people in the workplace aren’t going back to work. They’re working from home so we depend on that crowd for our lunch business,” he said.
However, Vatoseow said the new incentives will help and are a good start. “We got a lot of problems down here but it’s nothing we can’t overcome,” he said.
The storefront grant money can be used for anything from rent, to hiring and compensating staff, to inventory. Applications for the storefront grants are already open and will be evaluated and awarded until the funds run out. There is no deadline.
For more information on the grant, visit, cabq.gov/mra/storefront-activation-grant-program. For more information about Request for Proposals for residential projects, cabq.gov/mra/request-for-proposals.