Direct Grants

One common form of fiscal incentive is a direct grant (typically a reimbursement for allowable expenses) to a commercial building owner or space user in exchange for certain actions, such as the hiring of local residents or adopting specified design standards. One way this tool has been successfully used to enhance urban regeneration is through the use of small grants that encourage local residents or business owners to restore, rehabilitate, or repair storefronts and historic buildings. Oregon City, for example, offers a “storefront improvement” program that has provided funding to more than 60 local businesses since 2003. Most are located on or near the historic commercial corridors. The program helps to pay for exterior improvements that foster high(er) design quality and sustainability for properties located within a designated urban renewal area.

Sometimes an urban neighborhood may look blighted due to underinvestment in commercial building facades, a lack of unifying signage for a commercial area, or the lack of a well-designed and well-maintained public space. This type of fiscal incentive is a surgical intervention, appropriate for situations in which a blighted area has many land owners (rather than a few major landowners). Assuming that land assembly is not desirable or possible, it may require a retail rather than a large-scale, transformative approach. In Oregon City, for example, the city’s urban development agency offers adaptive reuse grants to businesses and commercial property owners located within the designated urban renewal district. Because the city is trying to encourage a mixed-use neighborhood, the grant program offers funds for the proposed conversion of interior rehabilitation projects.