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updated: 4/23/2014 6:54 PM

Des Plaines expands business incentive programs citywide

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Des Plaines is expanding its business incentive programs that until now have been restricted to downtown businesses.

The programs will offer grants for eligible businesses citywide who install new awnings, improve building facades, or make interior improvements.

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City officials say the programs have been successful in the downtown area, and helped four new businesses open in 2012 and 2013: MBD Martial Arts, Tap House Grill, Elite Fitness and Library Plaza.

But they also say businesses outside downtown have shown interest in the incentive programs.

Mayor Matt Bogusz said he met late last year with representatives of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce and Industry who asked him what could be done to help businesses beyond downtown.

"I think that it's frankly a fair question and a fair criticism because you have businesses on Oakton that are just as important to Des Plaines as businesses on Miner," Bogusz said. "I think it's a policy decision of the council to codify that, yes, a business on Oakton is just as important."

The city council this week unanimously approved expanding the incentive programs citywide, allocating $100,000 to the effort in 2014, with plans to discuss future funding during upcoming budget planning sessions. Until now, business assistance programs have been funded through the city's downtown Tax Increment Financing district.

Second Ward Alderman Jack Robinson, whose ward includes a portion of the Oakton Street commercial corridor, said he is glad the program is expanding citywide and hopes it will help fill some empty storefronts.

"It's about time the city has loosened the purse strings and will help some of the other people in town," Robinson said.

The city's awning initiative program provides reimbursements of up to 75 percent of costs, up to $5,000, for the installation of awnings on commercial buildings.

The facade rehabilitation program covers 50 percent of costs, up to $20,000, for improvements such as new windows and frames, signage, lighting and permanent landscaping features.

The business incentive program reimburses up to 50 percent of costs, up to $15,000, for businesses locating to vacant storefronts that complete interior improvements.

There's a $1,500 minimum project cost per grant, and the facade and business incentive program recipients must be business that generate sales or food and beverage taxes.

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