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(Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real Estate Florida.)

MIAMI-The Miami Downtown Development Authority has launched a facade improvement grant program for existing buildings in the shadows of the city’s newer condominium and office towers. The program is intended to assist building owners within the historic district to improve their exteriors, beautify properties and mitigate code violations.

According to the published guidelines, the program is designed to incentivize exterior improvements to commercial properties in order to create a better environment for customers, residents, and visitors. While other Miami DDA programs contribute to streetscape improvements and enhanced safety, the environment still lacks the aesthetics required to attract quality retail, evening activity and customers, according to the program guidelines.

Under part of the program aimed at tenant improvement, businesses will be eligible for grants reimbursing up to 75% of the cost of improvements, including masonry, security, gates, awnings, paint, window/door glazing, signage, lighting and electrical repairs. Grant funds will be available with a project cap of $75,000 on a matching 75/25 system with up to $56,250, or 75%, available from the grant fund and a minimum 25% from the property owner.

The program also pays 100% of the cost for qualifying businesses to replace opaque shutters with see through protection that will look more attractive. The development authority has launched the program with the assistance of the Miami Police Department and the Downtown Miami Partnership, an organization of property and business owners that receives funding from the DDA. Since its founding in 1965, the Miami DDA has worked as a public-private, non-profit business organization to develop Miami’s downtown area.

“The facade and shutter replacement program will dramatically improve the appearance and perception of safety on streets in the Central Business District,” says Neisen Kasdin, chairman of the authority’s Economic Development Committee. “We want to focus our efforts on Flagler Street first since it is the most important retail street and will have the greatest impact.”

The program is part of the overall effort of the DDA to improve the appearance of Miami’s central business district and encourage new businesses. Downtown Miami has nearly 6.7 million sf of rentable office space with a first-quarter vacancy rate of 7.6%, according to a CB Richard Ellis research report.

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