Downtown Trenton will soon welcome a new women-owned pharmacy, and two other retail businesses will make external improvements with support from programs offered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA). The Business Lease Incentive (BLI) and Business Improvement Incentive (BII) programs were created to encourage owners of first-floor retail and services businesses to establish or improve their facilities in eligible commercial areas of Garden State Growth Zones (GSGZ), designated as Passaic, Paterson, Atlantic City, Camden, and Trenton through the New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act.
The BLI Program offers reimbursement of 15 percent of annual lease payments for two years to for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations in eligible areas that plan to lease between 500 and 5,000 square feet of new or additional market-rate, first-floor office, industrial or retail space for a minimum five-year term. An applicant leasing over 5,000 square feet can be eligible, but the BLI grant will only incentivize the first 5,000 square feet. Applicants must apply for BLI assistance before signing a lease.
At 334 South Broad Street in Trenton’s Mill Hill neighborhood, two registered pharmacists plan to establish a 1,400-square-foot independently-owned pharmacy. Elina Elkind and Tatyana Orlova will open Mill Hill Pharmacy, with the vision of providing an extensive variety of services to local residents. The business owners have been approved for a grant to reimburse up to $2,993 of rent payments each year, for two years.
“Mill Hill Pharmacy will offer residents of the surrounding neighborhood a community- and customer service-focused pharmacy,” said Elkind. “Our philosophy is based on old-fashioned customer service and educating our customers in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”
Orlova added that along with the ease and comfort of walking into a local, family-owned business, Mill Hill Pharmacy expects to create 18 part- and full-time jobs for local residents.
The BII Program offers grants of up to 50 percent of total project costs for small businesses that are planning to make improvements to their facilities. The grant amount cannot exceed $20,000, with a minimum project cost of $5,000. The program is available to first-floor businesses in targeted commercial corridors.
At the corner of Broad Street and East State Street in Trenton, a Dunkin Donuts franchise has been approved for a BII grant of up to $20,000 to support facade improvements to modernize its appearance and make it visually more cohesive with the neighborhood. Improvements include replacing exterior insulation and awnings, and repainting. Total project costs are estimated at $43,500.
“We are excited for these upgrades as we are on a busy, highly-visible corner. These improvements will not only help to make our business more appealing to customers, but will contribute to the attractiveness of the general area,” said owner Naresh Patel.
Just a few blocks away at 302 East State Street, similar improvements will be made to a building that houses East State Deli and Deals, Deals, Deals, a clothing and accessories retailer. Building owner Stanley Choung plans to strip paint from the front half of the building, restore the original brick and replace all exterior window trim. The project also includes stripping and repainting all fire escapes. Through the BII program, Choung will be reimbursed for up to $20,000 of estimated project costs of $53,000.
“We have been thinking about restoring this old building to its original grandeur for some time, and the BII program presented a perfect opportunity to move forward,” said Choung. “Improving the façade of the building will help to draw more foot traffic to our commercial tenants and will improve the overall aesthetics of the neighborhood.”
The BII and BLI programs were launched in June 2017 on a pilot basis and up to $200,000 is available per city, per year, over the three-year life of the programs.
“Combined, these three projects demonstrate the impact investment in small businesses can have on a neighborhood,” said Senior GSGZ Development Officer Christina Fuentes, who manages the BII and BLI programs for the EDA. “A thriving downtown depends largely on the success of small businesses, and we encourage business owners to learn how these programs can help them prosper and add to existing economic momentum in their neighborhoods.”
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