After a highly turbulent 24-months for Toronto businesses, new city council plans have provided street-front businesses with much-welcomed assistance to help re-boot the local economy.
This helping hand comes in the form of access to new grants for commercial property investments.
The City council has recently given the go-ahead to distribute federal COVID-19 relief funds into two separate programs relating to either, Interior renovations/retrofits or exterior site upgrades. The newly approved plans have also expanded the scope of eligibility for existing city grants, specifically commercial building façades.
So, if you’re a street-front business looking to spruce up your establishment, then now is likely just as good a time as ever.
Commercial Rehabilitation Grant Program
The first of the two grant programs have been coined the new “Commercial Rehabilitation Grant Program” and will provide businesses with up to $20,000 to relieve the cost of various renovation and retrofit projects by as much as half.
These projects include measures such as; electrical, plumbing, and HVAC upgrades; fire and structural safety upgrades; flooring, wall and ceiling finishing; energy and water-use reduction; installation of affixed furnishings such as counters, shelving, and interior signage. To qualify for the program, applicants must undertake at least 3 of these upgrade measures and a project budget of at least $5,000.
The program will also provide businesses with as much as $2,000 to alleviate the cost of design fees. At the same time, certain applicants may meet eligibility requirements for an additional grant payment of up to $4,000 to cover 50% of accessibility upgrade costs.
The program is available to select Toronto business owners. Eligible recipients must own or commercially lease street-level commercial premises; Tenants of commercially leased property must obtain written permission from their landlord to approve their projects. Additionally, those with multi-unit commercial properties can apply for up to $4,000 per unit for further structural renovations.
Commercial & Industrial Property Improvement
The second of the grant programs or the new “Commercial and Industrial Property Improvement Grant Program” will enable business owners to reduce the cost of various site improvements such as outdoor fittings or patio improvements. The grant is capped at a maximum of $5,000 but aims to cover 50% upgrade costs.
The eligibility requirements for the program state that all property upgrades must be visible from public access ways and must exceed a budget of $2,000.
Specific upgrades that qualify for grants include permanent landscaping features, fencing, ground-mounted signage, and lighting. Unfortunately, business owners wishing to upgrade furniture and plant material do not qualify for the program.
Those who intend to improve the accessibility of their business are eligible for an additional amount to cover 50% of the costs of the upgrades, to a maximum of $2,500.
Where is this money coming from?
A federal support package of $18 million was released to Toronto earlier this year to kickstart the city’s recovery following the stress of the pandemic.
The city council has since elected to channel a third of this package into the Commercial Rehabilitation Grant program and just over 5% into the Industrial Property Improvement Grant Programme.
Toronto locals and business owners can expect to see the positive effect of these grant programs filtered down into their local businesses and streets over the next 30-months.
A lift in restrictions…
As well as the introduction of two new grant programs, Toronto City Council has also elected to remove existing restrictions that prevented business owners outside of business improvement areas access to the “Commercial Façade Improvement program.”
Subsequently, businesses operating out of a street-level commercial property in the city can now apply for grants of up to $12,500 to upgrade the façade of their buildings.
As a bonus, applicants are no longer required to be free of property tax arrears, as was previously required.
Through the help of the city council, business owners can look forward to the benefits of a commercial facelift.