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Waltham organization to offer grants to renovate downtown business storefronts

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  January 9, 2014 12:46 PM

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Laurie Swope for The Boston Globe

A Waltham organization wants to spur downtown revitalization by helping local business owners beautify their storefronts.

Waltham's Moody Street businesses could start looking a lot more inviting soon.

The Downtown Waltham Partnership, a group of concerned citizens started about 5 years ago, will soon start offering matching grants to downtown shop and restaurant owners to renovate and upgrade their storefronts and signs, said executive director Charnan Bray.

The organization is looking at both public and private funds to help pay for the grants, which would be offered to owners who qualify for financial aid. However, the fund-gathering process will likely take months, Bray said.

The partnership is now also offering free help with designing signs and storefronts, Bray said.

"We think this could change the streetscape and how the whole town looks," she said. "This is also one of the most important investments a business owner can make - every minute and day they have signage that people can't see, they lose customers and money."

The grant-matching announcement comes on the heels of several changes made by city officials to revitalize the downtown after Moody Street has spent decades swinging between being a bustling pedestrian thoroughfare to one plagued with vacant storefronts.

In August, Waltham’s City Council approved a 30,000-square-foot, 16-unit condominium building with retail and restaurant space at 210 Moody St. They also passed a $1.47 million initiative this summer, pushed by Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, to build sidewalks and replant 75 trees along Moody Street, in hopes of attracting more foot traffic and business interest.

Councilors also unanimously approved a special permit in October allowing developers to demolish four mostly vacant buildings at Moody and Main streets, and replace them with three five-story buildings containing 269 residences, ground-level retail space, and 392 parking spaces.

They also have discussed relaxing zoning bylaws to allow certain food establishments, such as upscale cafes and bakeries, to open downtown, as well as changing zoning amendments to let business signs protrude out. Currently, signs have to be flat against the storefront.

For more information, visit the Downtown Waltham Partnership's website.

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Follow us on Twitter: @yourtownwaltham, @jaclynreiss

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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