Mundelein expanding grant program to help business owners fund improvements
A grant program designed to help Mundelein business owners improve their properties and boost the local economy is expanding villagewide.
"Our (business) vacancy rate is higher than the county average, and this is a response to that," Mayor Steve Lentz said Monday. "It's meant to encourage businesses to move to Mundelein, and also for businesses that are in Mundelein to expand here."
When the effort launched last year, applicants were limited to businesses in the downtown area -- a wedge-shaped district that's mostly south and east of routes 45 and 176.
But officials handed out only one grant that first year -- to a fast-food restaurant called Luke's of Mundelein that was moving to a different site.
Owner Mike Majestic used the $6,800 grant to build a patio at the eatery's new location, 551 N. Lake St. It covered half the cost of the project.
"We had outdoor seating at the old store and in an effort to stay consistent with our customers, we wanted to have outdoor seating at the new store," Majestic said during Monday's lunch rush. "It's nearly full as we speak."
Hoping to spark more interest, officials agreed to broaden the geographic scope of the effort and increase funding.
They included $100,000 for the program in the budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which began Friday. That's double the amount available in the first year.
Of that sum, $75,000 is set aside for exterior or interior improvements at local businesses. The remaining $25,000 is earmarked for businesses that are installing new signs to meet stricter regulations that recently were approved by the village board.
Projects should "enhance the value of the space or property" and be more than cosmetic, said Victor Barrera, Mundelein's community development director.
Adding landscaping elements or lighting could qualify, Barrera said. Upgrading an outdoor dining area or facade could work, too.
As was the case with the patio at Luke's, the grants will cover half of a project's cost, up to $25,000. Additionally, the village will reimburse entrepreneurs for money spent on improvements, rather than providing cash in advance.
If you own a business in Mundelein and want to learn more about the grant program, call the community development department at (847) 949-3282.